The ambassadors of the European Union held a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on Friday during which they pledged additional support for Lebanon in coping with the burden of Syrian refugees in the country, Naharnet website reported.
“An additional amount of 70 million euros will be allocated by the EU humanitarian agency ECHO to help the poorest refugees through the winter,” EU Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst said after the talks.
She explained that the contribution will cover all the needs identified and planned for the poorest Syrian refugees during the winter under the “winterization” program developed by the inter-agency coordination here in Lebanon.
The assistance will last from November 2013 to March 2014 and it will be dedicated to 90,000 families living at an altitude above 500 meters above sea level and/or in the “informal tented settlements” and 10 percent of vulnerable Syrian families living below 500m.
“Lebanon bears the brunt of the impact of the Syrian crisis on all fronts. The disassociation policy as expressed in the Baabda Declaration remains essential to keep Lebanon away from the Syrian conflict,” she remarked.
Eichhorst also stressed that there must be a functioning government to assume the essential responsibilities and take the necessary decisions, both in terms of managing the refugee crisis, and in terms of national governance and international obligations.
“Overall, the EU is the largest trading partner of Lebanon and the largest donor with $1.3 billion in ongoing grants and loans. We continue to intensify our relations under the Association Agreement and our ongoing Action Plan and through our common political positions and cooperation programs,” stated Eichhorst.
“European institutions and Member States have already allocated more than 500 million euros to Lebanon to meet the consequences of the Syrian crisis on the country. Most of the funds were allocated to the United Nations, such as UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP, but much of the ongoing allocations also go directly to the Lebanese government to cover the needs of the Lebanese host families in the poorest municipalities,” she added.
Earlier on Friday, Sleiman lamented that the international community was not sufficiently sharing the burden of the displaced Syrians, who have put a severe strain on Lebanon’s economy.
“We should follow up the funding mechanism through the support of the World Bank,” he said referring to a series of pledges made at an International Support Group for Lebanon meeting held in New York last month.
The World Bank has said in a report that spillover from the Syrian war has cost Lebanon billions of dollars, deeply damaged its economy and harshly strained social services such as health, education and electricity.
Based on current trends, 1.3 million Syrian refugees could be in Lebanon by the end of this year, according to the report presented at the New York meeting.