BEIRUT: The US has pledged more than $72 million in emergency food assistance to Lebanon aimed at helping over 650,000 of the most vulnerable people in the country, including refugees from Syria.
Samantha Power, administrator of the US Agency for International Development, announced the aid during a visit to Lebanon on Wednesday.
She met local farmers affected by the deteriorating food security situation in the country.
Power said: “Through the UN World Food Programme, this funding will provide food parcels including rice, lentils and chickpeas for Lebanese families, and electronic food vouchers for Syrian refugees to use in local shops, which supports the Lebanese economy.”
The dollar exchange rate has reached 40,000 Lebanese pounds against the US dollar on the black market, impacting prices amid fears of unprecedented inflation.
Fuel prices have surged in the country due to the uncontrolled dollar exchange rate.
According to the US Embassy in Lebanon, “the repercussions of the Russian-Ukrainian war have impacted food and gasoline prices in Lebanon, depriving more people of food security and worsening the economic crisis in the country.”
The embassy added: “Lebanon usually imports about 80 percent of its wheat from Ukraine. Foodstuff prices in Lebanon have increased between October 2019 and June 2022 by more than 2000 percent. When people lose their income source, the most vulnerable families can no longer afford the food they need.”
The new emergency food assistance is part of worldwide USAID relief amounting to $2 billion announced by US President Joe Biden last September to address the global food security crisis, the embassy said.
“Since 2012, the US has granted over $3 billion in humanitarian aid to secure the needs of the most vulnerable groups in Lebanon,” it added.
Parallel to Power’s visit, Robert Oliphant, parliamentary secretary to the Canadian foreign minister, said that Canada “will continue to cooperate with the Lebanese government.”
After meeting Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Oliphant said: “Canada will support Lebanon in all fields, but the required reforms should be implemented to advance the process of signing the final agreement between Lebanon and the IMF.”
Oliphant also stressed the need for Lebanon to elect a new president and form a government.
On the sidelines of his participation at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Mikati held many meetings, in which he requested assistance for Lebanon to overcome its economic crisis.
A source familiar with the meetings said: “In response to Mikati’s request, everyone agreed on the necessity to elect a president as soon as possible and form a government that can be dealt with regarding providing Lebanon with assistance.”
Meanwhile, an Egyptian military plane carrying a donation of 17 tons of medicines, vaccines and medical supplies arrived in Beirut on Wednesday. The donation aims to combat the spread of cholera in Syrian refugee camps and some Lebanese communities in the north, the south and in Bekaa.
Caretaker Minister of Public Health Firass Abiad oversaw the delivery last Thursday of 600,000 cholera vaccine doses provided by the World Health Organization.
Moreover, the EU announced that it had allocated €800,000 ($803,500) toward community-based water, sanitation and hygiene interventions in areas with high levels of cholera cases in Lebanon.
Janez Lenarcic, commissioner for crisis management in the European Commission, said: “The situation in Lebanon has gone from bad to worse, with about 80 percent of the population living in poverty. Cholera is an indication of this deteriorating situation and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time.”
He added: “The EU funding will allow our partners in the humanitarian field to deploy rapid response teams and make sure that affected communities consume clean water.”