Lebanon launches cash cards to support vulnerable families

Beirut: Lebanon has launched cash cards in support for over 500,000 families who are in need of help amid the current financial and economic crisis.

Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Ramzi Musharrafieh said during a press conference here on Thursday that the cash cards will give each eligible household member $25 monthly, or its equivalent in Lebanese pounds at the parallel market exchange rate, reports Xinhua news agency.

The launching of the cash cards aims at curbing the subsidy program which costs $6 billion yearly, contributing to the depletion of foreign reserves in the country.

Musharrafieh said that the government has allocated a budget of $556 million for this plan, while it is working to get funding from a World Bank loan targeting infrastructure and labour, and also from the IMF’s special drawing rights known as SDRs.

Lebanon has been suffering from an unprecedented financial crisis, plunging 74 per cent of the population into poverty, according to the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia. 

The country’s social stability started deteriorating since the October 2019 uprising, adding to it is the economic impact of Covid-19 and the deadly Port of Beirut explosions in August 2020.

Moreover, the failure to form an effective government to implement much-needed financial reforms accelerated the deterioration of the socioeconomic situation by resulting in the collapse of the Lebanese pound and an increase in annual inflation by 158 per cent with food inflation going up by 550 per cent. 

The international community has on many occasions expressed concerns over the security situation in Lebanon with France hosting in June an international virtual conference to drum up support for the Lebanese army.

Also, the humanitarian community including the UN and some NGOs have launched in early August a 12-month Emergency Response Plan, aiming to provide life-saving humanitarian support to 1.1 million of the most vulnerable Lebanese and migrants affected by the ongoing crisis.