By KAREEM CHEHAYEB
BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister and the United Nations World Food Program said Tuesday that it has boosted its food assistance to the struggling nation, effectively feeding one-third of the crisis-hit population.
The tiny Mediterranean nation is in the grip of the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. Three-quarters of its population has plunged into poverty since late 2019. The Lebanese pound has lost over 90% of its value against the U.S. dollar, and the country struggles with some of the world’s worst food price inflation.
Lebanon has a population of roughly 6 million people, among them over 1 million Syrian refugees who fled the war-torn country over the past decade.
The WFP once allocated $700 million in food assistance to Lebanon every year, and scaled that up to $1.3 billion in 2022. Now, it has earmarked $5.4 billion for the next three years, increasing its annual food assistance budget by $500 million.
The new budget will allow the WFP to feed about 2 million people, split evenly between Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese.
“Food prices in Lebanon are 16 times higher than they were in October 2019 before the onset of the current deep financial crisis,” WFP spokesperson Rasha Abou Dargham told The Associated Press. “Families’ incomes are not enough to keep up with skyrocketing food and other basic needs prices.”
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, after meeting with the WFP Lebanon Country Director Abdallah Alwardat, said in a statement that he had insisted on increasing the number of Lebanese benefitting from WFP food assistance.
The WFP delivers food parcels to families and works with farmers and small businesses, but also works with the Lebanese government to execute an emergency cash-assistance program to vulnerable Lebanese families currently funded by a World Bank loan.
Earlier this month, the United States announced it will give the crisis-battered country $80.5 million in aid for food assistance and solar-powered pumping stations. The World Bank in May approved a $150 million loan to stabilize bread prices in Lebanon.