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Meryame Kitir, Minister of Development Cooperation, will visit Jordan from September 19 to 21 and Lebanon from September 21 to 24. This working visit will focus on the humanitarian issues face by the two countries, which are of great concern to Belgium. This attention is illustrated by the Belgian humanitarian aid dedicated to the response to the humanitarian needs resulting from the Syrian crisis.
The situation of the Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon - and more broadly the humanitarian situation in Syria - are at the heart of the program. Food insecurity, education, the role and place of women, and health care will be the themes on which Meryame Kitir will focus. Not only with the organizations involved in the field, but also and especially with their beneficiaries. Mr. Kitir: "I want to feel, see and hear on the ground how we can concretely protect and empower all these people, especially women and children, and where we can best deploy our aid."
Jordan is indeed one of the countries most affected by the Syrian crisis in the region, hosting the third largest population of Syrian refugees. More than 80% of them live in host communities in towns and villages, while others reside in the camps of Azraq and Zaatari.In addition, 2.2 million Palestinians and more than 300,000 Iraqi refugees are also hosted in the country.
Lebanon, meanwhile, hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world. An estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees are currently living in Lebanon. The country also hosts some 16,000 refugees of Ethiopian, Iraqi, Sudanese and other origins, in addition to more than 450,000 Palestinian refugees. The Lebanese population has also experienced successive crises. The conflict in Syria has taken a heavy economic and social toll on Lebanon, which has faced a deep financial crisis since late 2019.In Beirut, the devastating explosion at the port in August 2020 came on top of an already challenging situation.
The COVID-19 crisis has made refugees particularly vulnerable in both Jordan and Lebanon. "If we are committed to providing a dignified welcome, but also - and more importantly - protection in the region surrounding Syria, it is important now to use our aid as well as possible. It is important to give the people there a new perspective so that they can see a future again," says Meryame Kitir.
According to the United Nations, 83% of Syrian refugees outside the camps in Jordan are currently living below the poverty line. More than 20% are considered food insecure by the WFP (United Nations World Food Program), which itself has been facing a major funding shortfall for several months. This may worsen the situation and potentially increase the risk of instability in the camps and host communities.
In Lebanon, too, the accumulation of various crises has led to an exponential increase in extreme poverty and food insecurity, especially among refugees. For example, an estimated 88% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live below the extreme poverty line. Rising food prices in the country are also causing more and more Lebanese to struggle to obtain basic necessities.
This is why Minister Kitir has decided to allocate EUR 2 million to the World Food Program (WFP). "We have to do everything so that people do not have to go through life with an empty stomach. If you have to start every day with the question of how you are going to feed your children, there is no room for anything else. Then you can't build anything, because all that matters is surviving," concludes Kitir.
Back to school
Minister Kitir will also visit several Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan. She will pay special attention to the education of children and youth, who now have to grow up in particularly difficult conditions. "Every child goes to school. That should simply be our goal. I want to contribute to that, especially when that education takes place in such difficult circumstances. For this generation of children and young people, but also for the children of tomorrow, education is the only way out," says Meryame Kitir. This is why the Minister decided to focus specifically on quality education in cooperation with UNRWA (the United Nations refugee organization that focuses on the assistance and development of Palestinian refugees in the Middle East), with a dedicated contribution of 3.5 million euros.
Meetings during the working visit
Minister Kitir will visit several projects supported by the Belgian development cooperation. She will meet with the heads of Belgium's partner organizations, including UNRWA, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Resident Coordinators, as well as several civil society organizations.
In Jordan, Minister Kitir will have a meeting with the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Nasser Shraideh. She will also visit the refugee camps of Baqa'a (managed by UNRWA) and Zaatari (managed by UNHCR).
In Lebanon, Meryame Kitir will meet with Abdallah Bou Habib, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in charge of international aid coordination. Particular attention will also be paid to the consequences of the explosion that occurred in the port of Beirut in August 2021. Meryame Kitir would like to take this opportunity to express her solidarity and sympathy for the victims of this disaster.
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