With more than 22% of the population out of work, deep political divisions and recurring violence, Lebanon is struggling with a growing number of poor. Caritas Lebanon President Fr. Simon Faddoul says “one third of the Lebanese population is under the poverty level…this is not just fiction, it’s real numbers.”
Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war seriously damaged the country’s economy. Over the last two decades, much of its war-torn physical and financial infrastructure was rebuilt but the reconstruction has left the government heavily in debt and slowed development.
“The poor are getting poorer,” says a concerned Fr. Simon who appeals to Vatican Radio listeners and friends for financial help for Caritas Lebanon’s humanitarian assistance programs. “We have a shortage… we have a serious problem in that respect…we are really having a hard time providing for these people.”
The Catholic aid agency is also struggling to provide assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have fled the conflict in their country seeking refuge in neighboring Lebanon. But Fr. Simon is worried that his country’s social services fall well below international standards, adding to the plight of the poor.
“52% of the Lebanese population are not covered by any medical insurance or any medical coverage of any kind. Unless you have some strings to pull within the government you cannot be covered by the Ministry of Health and the social security system is limited to those who are employed.”
“Once they go on pension after (age) 64, they lose the social security. It’s not like the rest of the world…there is no pension! One of our major challenges,” observes Fr. Simon, “ is to provide for the third age – for the elderly in Lebanon.” Caritas Lebanon operates seven day care centers, says Fr. Simon, “so we can provide them with a hot meal a day or to have a nurse check their blood pressure. Unfortunately, I am saying (this) with much pain in my heart, but this is (the reality).”
For more information about Caritas Lebanon’s humanitarian assistance programs and learn how you can help, visit: www.caritas.org.lb