Jersey Overseas Aid Monitors Projects in Lebanon
A party from Jersey spent three days in Lebanon last week, visiting activities supported by Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA) and meeting project staff and beneficiaries.
The Jersey Overseas Aid delegation consisted of Deputy Carolyn Labey, Chair of JOA, and Simon Boas, its new Director. They inspected eight Jersey-funded activities in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley, including schools, training centres, counselling sessions, water trucking and a clinic. They met specialists from UNICEF in education, child protection, water, health and sanitation, and held interviews and focus groups with women and adolescents who had benefitted from different projects. They also interviewed staff from numerous local and international organisations, including Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Caritas and the Knights of Malta.
With a population of only around 6m, Lebanon has the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world, hosting more than 1.5 million Syrians, as well as large numbers of Palestinians, Kurds and Iraqis. This huge influx threatens the stability of the delicate sectarian balance, which is composed of 18 different religious groups. It also puts huge pressure on employment, housing, education and natural resources. The World Bank estimates that Lebanon has incurred losses of US$13.1 billion since 2012.
In October 2016, Jersey granted £475,000 to UNICEF for projects focused on needy children in Lebanon. Intervening at an early stage in people’s lives is often extremely cost effective, and with traumatised refugees it is even more so. Targeted education and health support for poor children affected by the crisis can help reduce their future needs, and increase the chance that they can be productive members of their society when they eventually return home.
Jersey’s donation has assisted over 110,000 children return to formal education, and helped provide safe water for drinking and domestic use for almost 100,000 people, many of whom live in crowded makeshift camps. The Island’s money also contributed to vocational training for older children and breast-feeding and vaccination interventions for infants.
Carolyn Labey commented: “It is humbling to see the fantastic work being conducted by UNICEF and its partners with funding from Jersey. For the price of a few pounds each, the people of our Island have helped transform the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in the world. Furthermore, by helping refugee families in this region, we are increasing the chance that they will one day participate in the reconstruction of their tragic country. I’m incredibly proud of what we’re achieving here, and I’m sure the people of Jersey are too. We have not stood idly by, during one of the worst humanitarian crises since the war.”
The JOA team also received a special briefing from the Director of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) inside Syria, who came from Damascus to meet them. He outlined the main challenges facing the UN and NGOs operating in Syria, and analysed how the situation is likely to evolve in 2017. Through OCHA, Jersey has been able to support emergency projects inside the war-torn country, including air-drops of food to besieged areas.
Simon Boas, who spent his career running aid programmes in developing countries before joining JOA, said “Trips like this are terrifically useful, as they give donors – and the taxpayers they represent – the chance to monitor and verify the activities they have funded. They also help us target future assistance more effectively. In fact, by enabling us to build connections with staff inside target countries, we become able to fund programmes like UNICEF’s directly, rather than through their UK umbrella organisations, which can actually save us money.”
The Syrian civil war has killed around 316,000 people since 2011 and displaced over 11 million, of whom around 5 million have fled abroad. JOA’s response to this appalling humanitarian crisis has been to focus assistance on Jordan, Lebanon and within Syria itself, to provide lifesaving assistance and to help people stay in or near their homes.