Norwegian People's Aid's history in Lebanon dates back to 1982, with the main focus on supporting Palestinian refugees living in the country.
Today, Norwegian People's Aid conducts long-term development work with an emphasis on organizations that mobilize for the rights of vulnerable groups and humanitarian work focusing on the refugee situation and violence against women.
The humanitarian and economic crisis
In recent years, Lebanon has sunk into an ever-deepening quagmire. The economy has collapsed, even as the pandemic and massive explosion in Beirut in 2020 have hit the country hard. People's trust in politicians is at a zero point. Governments come and go, but none can respond to the people's demands for more democracy, less corruption, and better governance.
Poverty and inequality have increased drastically. More than 80 percent of citizens do not have access to basic rights, such as health, education, housing, and electricity. The World Bank has ranked the crisis among the three most severe global financial crises since the mid-nineteenth century. The Lebanese lira has lost its value since October 2019. Fuel shortages have caused widespread power outages, lasting up to 23 hours per day. Hospitals, schools, and bakeries have struggled to operate amid these energy shortages. All these crises have greatly affected people, especially adolescents, leading to a massive brain drain and a high percentage of emigration.
Inequality in Lebanon has increased drastically over the past year, and the UN estimates that close to 80 percent of the population will live below the poverty line in 2022. Both Lebanese and the country's refugees are struggling to meet their basic needs. Norwegian People's Aid supports food distribution to the most vulnerable families. In addition, we support cash-for-work programs, equipment, and training in the agricultural sector to increase food security and create income-generating work. Norwegian People's Aid and our partners focus on the environment in our support of food production and assist in the work for more efficient irrigation systems, technical training, and knowledge to operate more sustainably and environmentally friendly.
In a country in crisis, women, significantly displaced women, and migrant workers, are exposed to violence including sexual violence from family, relatives, or employers. Norwegian People's Aid's partners offer counseling, psychosocial support, and protection to women who are victims of violence and sexual violence. We support partners' efforts to prevent and raise awareness in local communities to combat violence against women.
According to the UN, more than six million people live in Lebanon. Almost 900, 000 are refugees from the now 12-year civil war in neighboring Syria. Nearly 200 000 Palestinians live in overcrowded refugee camps. These many refugees have put great pressure on the country's infrastructure, sharpening existing conflicts.
The flow of refugees from Syria, and reduced wages or rising unemployment among the few Palestinians who have found work, exacerbate internal tensions and social unrest in the Palestinian refugee camps. Norwegian People's Aid's partners assist Palestinian refugees from Syria and Palestinian refugees who have lived in Lebanon for a long time.
Long-term rights work for refugees and migrant workers
Norwegian People's Aid works with mobilization for rights and civic participation for Palestinian refugees, women, and youth, and dialogue among Palestinian refugees and between these and Lebanese authorities and organizations. The goal is to strengthen women's and young people's participation in politics and society. Building political skills and motivation in women leads to more visibility and local actions and strengthens the role and influence of women in the Palestinian camps.
Local cooperative organizations promote Palestinians' human rights as refugees in Lebanon, their right to work and own their own homes, and the right to return to their original homes in Israel or the occupied territories.
In Lebanon, an estimated 250 000 migrants work as domestic servants in people's homes, primarily women from Ethiopia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Lebanese labor laws do not protect them, and their status in the country is regulated by the restrictive kafala system that links the residence of migrant workers to their employers. Many are forced to work without pay or with very low pay, and many are not allowed to go out and often have to work long hours without rest. They are also subject to verbal and physical abuse. Norwegian People's Aid supports the work for the rights of migrant workers, especially women who work as domestic workers, as well as strengthening gender equality and rights for women in general in Lebanon.