Lebanon is a state of collapse, and it was in the middle of its worst crisis when a huge explosion blowed Beirut in August 2020. In response to this compounded situation, the World Bank Group (WB), as already published, launched the Emergency Crisis and Covid19 Response Social Safety Net Project (ESSN) to help the poorest Lebanese families.
Last week, the Lebanese parliament approved the $246 million World Bank loan for the poorest Lebanese families, which was to be distributed in the local currency at the rate of 6,240 LBP set by the Central Bank. However, a letter addressed to the country’s Finance Minister Mr. Wazni this week claimed that the World Bank, European Union and the United Nation aid be distributed in US dollars. “We are confident you share the urgency of rolling out the agreed upon disbursement mechanisms at the earliest, in order to ensure the consistency and continuity of aid amidst increasingly challenging socio-economic conditions” the letter said.
Briefly, the ESSN project promises to provide emergency cash transfers to approximately 786,000 poor Lebanese families. In details the loan aims to support 147,000 extreme poor Lebanese households with cash assistance for one year. It involves a monthly transfer to eligible household members in addition to a flat amount that will be distributed per household. Furthermore, the World Bank announced that 87,000 children between the ages of 13-18 year will receive a top-up cash transfer to cover the direct costs of schooling.
Consequently, the letter shows that donors want to ensure the best provisions of humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of the poorest families in Lebanon therefore as they insisted to hand out the cash transfers to the beneficiaries in fresh dollar rather than in Lebanese pounds amid the unstable exchange rate. However, the Finance Minister Mr. Ghazi Wazni and a World Bank spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment. An EU spokesperson said they would comment soon.