The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has started scaling up its support to a crucial national social support scheme in Lebanon to assist families struggling to make ends meet amid a severe economic downturn, skyrocketing inflation and a collapsing Lebanese pound.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, WFP said it will support an additional 195,000 people, aiming to reach a total of 300,000 people per month through the National Poverty Targeting Program (NPTP) of the Ministry of Social Affairs which is developing the national social protection framework and strategy. To address inflation and increased food prices in Lebanon, WFP “will provide each family with a cash top-up of 200,000 LBP that can be used in shops or at cash machines (ATMs),” it said.
“It gets harder by the day for Lebanese people to put food on the table, so this assistance comes just in time,” said WFP Representative and Country Director in Lebanon Abdallah Alwardat. “Meanwhile, we are monitoring the overall conditions of the families receiving our assistance to make sure they can feed themselves properly and avoid the anguish of not knowing where their next meal is coming from,” he added.
Since 2014, together with the Ministry of Social Affairs, WFP has been “the backbone of sustaining the food assistance component of the National Poverty Targeting Programme, reaching more than 105,000 people every month through e-cards which can be used to buy food,” the U.N. agency said.
This support provides a lifeline for Lebanese families living meal to meal.
WFP repeatedly increased monthly cash assistance transfers throughout 2020 to keep up with rising prices: from LBP40,500 in 2019 to 100,000 LBP for each member of a family that holds the NPTP e-card.
“We stand ready to help the people of Lebanon navigate these challenging times,” said EU Ambassador to Lebanon Ralph Tarraf. “We are committed to strengthening Lebanese social protection systems, including reforming the National Poverty Targeting Programme. We are following this closely with the United Nations and World Bank Group, as part of our joint effort on reform, recovery and reconstruction following the Beirut blast,” he added.
WFP is implementing the scale-up thanks to “generous contributions from the European Union, Germany, Canada, Norway, Italy, and France,” it said, adding that it aims to reach 750,000 Lebanese across the country through various interventions.
“We support a whole-of-Lebanon approach and leave no-one-behind approach, because we include everyone in this project,” said Ambassador of Germany to Lebanon Andreas Kindl.
In addition to direct food assistance to the poorest Lebanese families, WFP is also “strengthening the capacity and sustainability of the Government of Lebanon’s National poverty targeting program.”
“As well as training the Ministry of Social Affairs’ social workers, WFP is providing a robust payment delivery platform, monitoring results, building digital systems, and providing technical support,” it said.
“The compounded crises facing Lebanon nowadays have led to a dramatic increase in poverty rates and exacerbated vulnerabilities among the residents of Lebanon,” said caretaker Minister of Social Affairs Ramzi Msharrafiyeh. “The Ministry of Social Affairs, in collaboration with WFP and through the generous support of donor community, is trying to guarantee food security and achieve a comprehensive social protection strategy that is a basic right for everyone, to allow them to live in dignity,” he added.