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Lebanon delays cash assistance rollout to vulnerable families as coronavirus crisis batters local economy Open in fullscreen

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Lebanon delays cash assistance rollout to vulnerable families as coronavirus crisis batters local economy

The aid will reportedly reach 187,500 families in need of assistance [AFP]

Date of publication: 14 April, 2020

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Poverty-stricken families in Lebanon will have no choice but to wait, after a one-time cash handout promised by the ministry was postponed indefinitely.
The Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs has indefinitely postponed its promised cash assistance to families in need, which was set to start direct distribution on Tuesday.

In an official statement released on Monday night, the ministry said it will hold off the distribution of the one-time cash assistance of LL 400,000 – around $140 in market exchange prices – per family.

The government body said the delay was due to "errors" in lists presented by the local authorities to the national army.

"Due to several mistakes in the presented lists, the ministry decided to postpone the distribution of this aid until the army has concluded its inspection," the ministerial statement said.

Social Affairs Minister Ramzi Moucharafieh presented the finalised version of the aid program in a press conference held last week, hours after Human Rights Watch warned millions in Lebanon may not have access to food if the government fails to provide assistance.

Families in need of assistance were told to contact municipalities and local mukhtars to register. 

Lebanon ordered residents to stay at home mid-March and suspended all non-essential businesses until further notice in a bid to curb the spread of covid-19.

Before the outbreak, Lebanon’s residents were already struggling to deal with the ramifications of an economic crisis, which increased nation-wide poverty – now affecting 45 percent of the country’s population, according to official estimates.

According to a report by Al-Jazeera, the cash-handouts were set to reach 187,500 families, to be delivered by the army.

Read more: Besides coronavirus, Lebanon has an equally dangerous outbreak on its hands - unemployment

"Lebanon has been in lockdown for nearly a month. But the government has yet to distribute assistance to families in need," HRW researcher Aya Majzoub said in a tweet. 

Majzoub called for the immedietly distribution of the allocated funds, proposing instead to defer verifications. 

As of Tuesday, the health ministry recorded a total of 641 coronavirus infections, which have resulted in 21 deaths so far.

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