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On Wednesday September 22, Minister of Development Cooperation and Urban Policy Meryame Kitir visited the port of Beirut, severely damaged by explosions in August 2020. This was the first visit of a Belgian minister since the explosion in Beirut. She had the opportunity to pay her respects and lay a wreath at the memorial dedicated to the victims, along with members of the family of a Belgian-Lebanese victim. With this gesture, Minister Kitir wished to express her condolences and solidarity with the families of the victims of this tragic event.
"I am impressed by the fight that the families of the victims carry out every day to obtain justice. It is an uphill battle but they are not giving up - despite their grief. They deserve justice," says Meryame Kitir.
Immediately after the disaster, Belgium stood by the Lebanese population by allocating humanitarian aid through partner organizations and sending emergency medical and humanitarian aid to the area.
The explosion had a huge impact on the lives of thousands of people in Lebanon and led to a rapid deterioration of the humanitarian and economic situation in the country.
"More than half of the Lebanese population now lives in poverty. Yet, I see a tremendous will to persevere. Children want to go to school. People want to build a future. With our support, we side with the people", said Minister Kitir.
Meryame Kitir met with Ms. Najat Rochdi, UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon and Resident Coordinator. They discussed the humanitarian situation in Lebanon, which has deteriorated to the point where the supply of basic goods such as electricity, drinking water and medicines has become a daily struggle for the population, especially the most vulnerable. Minister Kitir was able to see this firsthand during her meetings with beneficiaries of Belgian-supported projects.
In response to the humanitarian challenges facing the country, Minister Kitir has decided to allocate an additional 3 million euros to the Lebanon Fund of OCHA, the UN's humanitarian arm, and 1 million to the World Food Program. These additional amounts bring the humanitarian contribution to Lebanon to 8 million euros for 2021. This support from Belgium allows the UN to respond quickly and provide immediate and effective assistance to countries like Lebanon. This includes basic supplies, such as water and food, but also other forms of assistance to get through the current crisis in Lebanon.
"The humanitarian and economic crisis is having a big impact on the refugees in Lebanon, but also on the Lebanese people. It is important that no one is left behind. We must be able to respond to the needs of all people as quickly and efficiently as possible. The Humanitarian Fund in Lebanon and our partners on the ground do not discriminate: both the Lebanese and the refugees in need can count on them. This is the only way for everyone to move forward," said Minister Kitir.
Finally, the Minister had the opportunity to discuss the multiple challenges Lebanon is facing with the new Minister of Foreign Affairs in charge of international aid coordination, Abdallah Bou Habib. Minister Kitir welcomed the announcement of the formation of a new government in Lebanon. Structural reforms to overcome the multiple crises the country is facing must be implemented as a matter of priority and urgency. The stability and future of the country depend on it. Only in this way can the people regain confidence in their political leaders.
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