CNEWA Canada

Lockdown in Lebanon suspends food distribution

The extension of Lebanon’s nationwide lockdown to 8 February has postponed CNEWA’s monthly food distribution program for thousands of families in the beleaguered country’s capital region.

Prior to the start of the lockdown on 12 January, more than 6,500 families in Beirut and the surrounding area received nearly 12,000 boxes of food aid in a months-long coordinated relief effort that began after a massive explosion rocked Lebanon’s capital in August. 

volunteers help to process a request for food at the Palestinian refugee camp in Dbayeh, Lebanon
Volunteers process a request for a CNEWA food box at the Palestinian refugee camp in Dbayeh, Lebanon, a few days prior to the lockdown.

The most recent food distribution took place during the last two weeks of December; it benefited some 3,800 families. Families signed up for food assistance through CNEWA’s local church partners.

The CNEWA-funded food boxes included enough dry goods and staples, such as lentils, beans, flour, rice, canned tuna, pasta and cheese, to last a family one month, said Marlene Constantin, a project manager with CNEWA in Beirut.

CNEWA has seen an increase in the number of people in the capital region requiring food support since 2019, said Ms. Constantin. The situation has only worsened since the start of the pandemic and the Beirut Port explosion.

School children and their parents pick up CNEWA food boxes at the Syriac Catholic School for Iraqi refugee children, 31 December. (photo: Maroun Bassil)

Right across the board, CNEWA’s local partners in Lebanon have also seen a steady growth in need, she said. For example, St. John the Merciful Table in the city of Zahleh provided 500 hot meals a day when it opened in 2018. Currently, it serves 1,500 meals daily. The socio-medical Intercommunity Dispensary in Nabaa, located northeast of Beirut, reports that the number of families in need of food increased from 300 to 1,600 in the same time span.

“These centers are located in areas that are highly populated with poor people from different confessional groups,” she said.

boy handles food boxes in Lebanon
A boy handles a CNEWA food box at the Syriac Catholic School for Iraqi refugee children, during a food distribution day, 31 December. (photo: Maroun Bassil)

“With every passing day, more people are falling into poverty and need support, even those who were before considered to be living a decent, middle class life are now in need,” she said. “As the need is also increasing for food, we have also requested further support from CNEWA.”

elderly couple walks home with food box in Lebanon
An elderly couple walks home with their CNEWA food box, distributed by the Howard Karagheusian Socio-Medical Center in Bourj Hammoud, 5 January. (photo: Maroun Bassil)

About 2,200 families benefited from the distribution of CNEWA-funded food boxes in November, and 5,900 families benefited from the first food distribution effort, held in mid-September. The September distribution was funded by Aid to the Church in Need and implemented by CNEWA and Caritas with local partners and centers. Several thousand families were listed to receive a food box monthly over the four-month period.

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