International conference raises funds to help Lebanon

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Lebanon Blast (Copyright 2021The Associated Press. All right reserved)
Lebanon Blast (Copyright 2021The Associated Press. All right reserved)

An international conference on Lebanon on Wednesday aims to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to meet the country’s humanitarian needs, one year after the massive explosion at Beirut’s port.

The virtual event, co-hosted by France and the United Nations is meant to show support for the Lebanese people, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

France will provide 100 millions euros ($118.6 million) in the coming months, Macron said in his opening remarks.

About 40 heads of state and government, diplomats and heads of international organizations are taking part in the conference, according to Macron's office. Participants include President Joe Biden, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, King Abdullah II of Jordan and European Council President Charles Michel.

A French official, speaking anonymously in accordance with the presidency’s customary practices, said international donors seek to meet the country's current humanitarian needs estimated by the U.N. to be at least $357 million. Aid will focus on food, schools, the health sector and clean water supply.

The event is also meant to mount pressure on Lebanese leaders to form a new government able to implement reforms and start rebuilding the country.

Lebanon is going through the worst economic and financial crisis of its modern history, and a political stalemate that has kept the country without a functioning government for a full year.

Lebanese politicians only made the situation ”worse by placing their individual and political interests above the Lebanese people’s interests," Macron said. Since 2018, they have failed to meet “all deadlines” and “all commitments,” he added.

“Lebanon definitely deserves better," Macron said.

Macron stressed that humanitarian aid promised Wednesday will be unconditional, but he warned that “there will be no blank check to the Lebanese political system because it is defaulting."

Macron, who went to Beirut twice since the explosion at the port, has led international efforts to try to help the former French protectorate by providing emergency aid. Last year's conference on Lebanon, organized in the wake of the explosion, raised about 280 million euros ($332 million).

According to the U.N., over half of Lebanese people now live in poverty, one in three Lebanese suffer from food insecurity and nearly 4 million people are at risk of not accessing safe water.

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