UN chief in Lebanon to ‘improve’ conditions for Syria refugees
‘Few countries have demonstrated the generosity that the government and people of Lebanon have shown towards Syrian refugees,’ Ban said
UN chief Ban Ki-moon Thursday started a two-day visit to Lebanon aimed at improving conditions for Syrian refugees whose number is more than a quarter of the country’s own population.
“We are here to find ways to improve conditions for refugees, to support the communities hosting them, and to help mitigate the impact on Lebanon’s economy,” he said.
Ban spoke at a news conference in Beirut beside Lebanon’s Prime Minister Tammam Salam, World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim and Islamic Development Bank head Ahmad al-Madani.
Syria’s five-year conflict has killed more than 270,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes, with neighbouring countries bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis.
Lebanon alone hosts nearly 1.2 million refugees.
“Few countries have demonstrated the generosity that the government and people of Lebanon have shown towards Syrian refugees,” Ban said.
“Syria’s neighbors are a model for other countries and regions that have far more resources than they do,” he added.
The UN chief, who is on Friday to visit a poor neighborhood hosting Syrian refugees in the northern city of Tripoli, said he was “concerned by the vulnerability of Lebanese host communities, especially in the most impoverished areas.”
He also said he was “concerned about the political situation in Lebanon”, referring to a crisis exacerbated by the Syrian conflict that has left the country without a president for 21 months.
For his part, the World Bank chief said $100 million (89.5 million euros) had been earmarked to support the education of refugees.
“We have taken $100 million from a fund that we use only for the poorest countries... and provided today a very concessional loan for the education sector, again to show our appreciation to what Lebanon has done in educating the refugees here,” Kim said.
The World Bank last month said the devastating economic impact of the war in Syria and its spillover into five nearby countries - including Lebanon - stood at $35 billion.