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Austria Provides Humanitarian Aid to Ease Food Crisis in Lebanon

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Federal government provides 3 million euros from Relief Fund for Disasters Abroad

The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and the resulting global food crisis have further worsened the humanitarian situation in Lebanon. Soon, due to volatile price increases for food staples such as wheat, aid organisations will no longer be in a financial position to procure enough of these staples, and will not be able to provide the bare minimum to people affected by the humanitarian crisis. This must be prevented. Consequently, during today's Council of Ministers, the Austrian government decided to provide a total of 3 million euros from the Foreign Ministry's Relief Fund for Disasters Abroad.

The humanitarian situation in Lebanon is highly dependent on food security. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the situation has thus become much worse. Particularly at this time, we must quickly increase aid on the ground, in part also to prevent further migration waves towards Europe. With the additional 3 million euros from the Relief Fund for Disasters Abroad that were approved by the Council of Ministers today, we are therefore intentionally financing the critical World Food Programme as well as the activities of Austrian aid organisations on the ground, said Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who also discussed the local situation and Austrian support with Lebanese President Michael Aoun during his visit to Lebanon two weeks ago.

According to information from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), at least 3.2 million people depend upon humanitarian aid, and one third of them are children. Above all, what is lacking is food, access to clean drinking water, and adequate sanitary facilities. 77 percent of households do not have enough food or money for food; for Syrian refugee households, the number is 99 percent.

Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler added:

Based on country size, Lebanon has taken in the most refugees worldwide. Moreover, the country is now in the midst of a deep political leadership crisis. The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has now also dramatically worsened the food situation. That is why humanitarian aid is so important to help prevent a food disaster. The disbursement of 3 million euros from the Relief Fund for Disasters Abroad will help with this. Quadrupling the amount of humanitarian aid -- now totalling more than 100 million euros -- will give Austria the opportunity to increase food aid for people in Lebanon.

Since the start of the war in Syria, Lebanon -- a country with a population of 6.8 million people -- has taken in around 1.5 million refugees from the neighbouring state. This influx has placed an enormous strain on the entire infrastructure. Basic medical care is already on the verge of collapse.

Lebanon is in a dangerous downward spiral that is steadily accelerating due to the effects of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. The explosion at the Port of Beirut two years ago had already destroyed thousands of tons of grain stocks in the silos. Lebanon imports up to 80 percent of its grain supply, and now it is almost impossible for these vital shipments to reach the country due to the Russian aggression. We need to counteract this and use the World Food Programme to help the people who most urgently need it. The dramatic developments in Lebanon have the potential to destabilise the entire region -- that needs to be prevented with all our might, said Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, referring to Austria's humanitarian tradition.

The ongoing precarious economic situation has already thrown the country into a deep crisis. Nearly three-quarters of the Lebanese population live below the poverty line. Since the start of the Ukrainian war, they are now also facing an energy and food crisis.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is expecting an additional demand of 71 million dollars per month in order to provide people in the Near East and North Africa -- who are already impacted by humanitarian crises -- with the most necessary items.

In order to ensure the most effective aid for refugees within the country and near their homeland, Austria will first provide the WFP with 2.5 million euros and will also provide half a million euros to support the work of Austrian non-governmental organisations on the ground.

Already last year, Austria provided 5 million euros in humanitarian aid, among other things in order to ensure basic medical supplies.