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Rethinking Humanitarianism | What happens when the middle class falls into poverty?

‘These survival actions people are resorting to remind our elderly of how it was back in the civil war in the 1990s. The only difference is now we’re not in a civil war.’

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Close to 100 million people around the world are estimated to have been pushed into poverty because of the economic impacts of COVID-19. Lockdowns, lay-offs, and an economic recession have left many formerly middle-class families destitute and dependent on aid organisations for their basic needs. 

In this episode, host Heba Aly discusses the changing face of vulnerability in Lebanon, where an economic crisis – compounded by COVID-19 and the 2020 Beirut port explosion – has left many middle-class families without food, medicine, and fuel. She speaks to a community organisation and an international NGO on the long-term implications and challenges of providing aid to this new – and growing – cohort of people in need.

Guests: Maya Terro, co-founder of FoodBlessed; Nana Ndeda, director of advocacy and policy at Save the Children Lebanon.

New episodes of Rethinking Humanitarianism are published every two weeks. Make sure you never miss an episode of season two by subscribing on Spotify, Apple, Google, Stitcher, or YouTube, or searching “The New Humanitarian” in your favourite podcast app.

Got a question or feedback? Email [email protected] or have your say on Twitter using the hashtag #RethinkingHumanitarianism.

TRANSCRIPT | What happens when the middle class falls into poverty?

Ilham Hashem: We are five people, my husband, my three daughters and I. We live in Beirut. I worked in a bank for 30 years. Many things have been changed, we were on the top, and then we became on the ground. I left my job 8 months ago; they fired around 200 employees from the bank. Our situation has deteriorated greatly, we can’t go out, and we can’t buy sandwiches for the kids. In one day and night, we found ourselves under the ground. We are beggars in our country.

Heba Aly: That was in Ilham Hashem, her life has taken a turn for the worst in the past year. She went from being financially comfortable with a good job and her children's tuition covered by her employer, to having to sell her jewellery to pay for her children's school. And Ilham is not the only one. 

Lebanon is experiencing its worst economic crisis in history, exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic. The value of the Lebanese lira has plummeted by more than 90% in just over a year. And basics like medicine and electricity have become unavailable or unaffordable. Planned taxes on petrol, tobacco and even WhatsApp calls triggered protests against the government, compounded by anger over corruption and sectarian rule. Those protests led to the resignation of the prime minister and the collapse of the government. To make matters worse, a devastating explosion in the port of Beirut in 2020 caused damage to much of the capital city. The middle class has lost approximately two thirds of its purchasing power in Lebanon. And three quarters of the population is now under the poverty line. 

Around the world, Covid-19 economic impacts are estimated to have pushed nearly 100 million more people into extreme poverty. Not just in Lebanon, but in Turkey, in Afghanistan, in Latin America. The middle class is shrinking, and in some places, it risks disappearing altogether. Humanitarian agencies are helping the newly poor, but is humanitarian aid the right tool to address the descent of the middle class into poverty? 

I'm Heba Aly, in Geneva, Switzerland, and this is Rethinking Humanitarianism. Every year The New Humanitarian publishes a list of 10 crises to watch. We just recently published our 2022 edition and the first entry on the list is what we're calling, the pandemics poverty hangover. Lockdowns, layoffs and an economic recession have driven new needs in places that have not been traditional recipients of humanitarian aid. 

Normally, people receiving humanitarian aid have fled a conflict zone or survived an earthquake. Financial crises are not the usual scope of humanitarians. But what if you've been enjoying a middle class lifestyle and are suddenly faced with rising prices, inflation, job losses and no government programs to support you? 

As we've discussed in past episodes, humanitarian aid budgets are already overstretched. So where does this new group of people in need fall? 

Joining us today is Maya Terro. She founded FoodBlessed, a Lebanese, volunteer-run organisation tackling hunger. It's been operating since 2012. But in the past year, they've seen a sharp increase in requests for food from families who never were in need before. 

Maya joins us from Beirut and she herself is struggling with Covid. So I really appreciate you coming on to the podcast. Welcome. 

Maya Terro: My pleasure. 

Aly: So just to get started, tell us a bit about FoodBlessed.

Terro: We are the only community-based and volunteer driven organisation in Lebanon that works with the civil society and strategic partners to tackle food insecurity but also food waste and social isolation. 

Aly: These increase requests for help that you've been getting in recent months. Where are they coming from?

Terro: Between rising political instability which started at the end of October 2019, economic collapse, the Covid pandemic, and a massive explosion which was the cherry on top in August last year. All of this put the country into turmoil. As a result of these multiple disasters, Lebanon is currently going through one of the worst economic and financial crises since the end of the Civil War in 1990. More people found themselves without jobs. 

On a typical day, we would receive 300 requests per day. And then in the middle of the pandemic, that number was almost 700 requests a day. One day we had over like 2000 requests in almost 2 to 3 days. 

We've all been used to having people who are vulnerable and in need asking for help. But there was like a new class asking for help. I wouldn't say it’s the middle class, it used to be known as the middle class. Unfortunately, now, there is no middle class in Lebanon. Those who have the means to leave have left. Others will leave very soon. And the middle classes that stayed behind are being called by some as ‘the new poor’. The economic crisis has had by far the largest negative impact. The Lebanese pound has lost over 86% of its value. And this has jeopardised people’s ability to access basic goods, including food, shelter, and healthcare. 

In terms of the middle class, this meant that with prices going up and their salaries remaining the same, your purchasing power only decreases. So even if you’re considered middle class, you no longer have the purchasing power of a middle class. So you’re not middle class anymore. And all of this worsened in the aftermath of the August 4 explosion, because after the explosion, so many shops and small businesses closed. A lot of individuals were saying that we’re not middle class, we’re in the middle of a crisis.

Aly: What has that transition been like for those that, as you say, weren't used to being poor and are now falling into that. I think we forget sometimes in this industry of humanitarian aid that people aren't necessarily born in need, they have lives and jobs and futures. And then something happens and destroys all of that. I remember actually reporting in Syria at the start of the war there, on families that were previously considered middle class and who had been reduced to carrying their belongings in a single plastic bag. And it’s such a psychologically difficult transition to make, what are you seeing with the people that you’re helping in that regard?

Terro: For a lot of families who have always been stuck in the middle class, it is something that they're not used to. So for them, for example, they had to give up the lifestyle that they were used to. So for example, middle income citizens enjoyed a decent lifestyle. It allowed them to send their kids to good schools, spend money for leisure, like a lot of them used to travel, and occasional vacations. So no one really took into account the fickle nature of our middle class and how kinda it was related to this bubble economic system. Eventually it was going to collapse. Like, the middle class in Lebanon enjoyed life under the facade of economic stabilities. And the poor, while they've been suffering for decades because of systematic marginalisation. 

But now more than ever, everyone is feeling the impact of what the country is going through. People feel ashamed to say that they’re in need, because they would be looked at in a different way. A lot of teachers, for example, who never thought they would ask for help were getting in touch and saying that: well, we never thought we were going to pick up the phone and ask for help, we were helping others at one point in our lives and now we’re the ones asking for help I mean, imagine yourself being used to a certain lifestyle that allowed you to help others. And now suddenly, you have found yourself in a position where you are in need of help. It's hard, it's confusing, to say the least. And it makes you angry. The harsh reality or fact is that in Lebanon you’re either poor, very poor, or rich, or very rich. There’s no middle ground.

Aly: I heard this term once that really stuck with me, ‘the changing face of vulnerability’. And it strikes me that in this age of COVID, but also climate change – and who is being affected by climate change – of political upheaval in countries like the United States. It’s so true that the face of vulnerability is changing. I wonder how that resonates with you?

Terro: I ask myself, so many times, how are people able to do it. It’s just really so hard. And I ask them, and they say, a lot of them sell their properties. A lot of them borrow money. A lot of them just leave the city and live with relatives. A lot of them skip meals. These survival mode kind of actions a lot of people are resorting to, they kind of remind our elderly of how it was back in the civil war in the 1990s. The only difference is now we're not in a civil war, or there's no war whatsoever. But we're living like we're in a war.

Aly: As we said at the beginning, this isn’t really the kind of thing that humanitarians would normally respond to. But in fact, for the Lebanese people, the impact is just about the same. I wonder how the response is looking. Let’s start with your organisation. You're getting more and more requests for help. You’re a small, volunteer-led organisation, how are you able to meet that growing demand and is that really sustainable?

Terro: I wanted a sustainable framework where even if we didn't have funds, we would still be working. And it was possible before Covid, because we used to rely on two types of donations: monetary and in kind. So we used to ask people for food items that they have in their own houses that they don't need, or maybe they're moving or leaving the country, and they're leaving [things] behind. And then the monetary. 

But after COVID it was really hard. One, because items were missing from the shelves and supermarkets. People could not afford those items anymore. We used to buy in bulk and support local producers in the process, which meant money spent well.

Now we’re helping 1600 families per month, which is not enough given the huge amount of people asking for help. We know we have to do better. But I mean, for us, we did like a small study, and with the money we have now we’ll be able to keep going like this for probably four to five months. And then I don’t know what’s gonna happen. 

Aly: The community has really activated and it's something that we've seen also in the age of COVID, in other parts of the world, this rise of mutual aid. And I just wonder how that makes you think about what we might have traditionally considered charity or humanitarian aid when everyone is in need, or almost everyone is in need? How does it change your own conception of what you're doing at FoodBlessed?

Terro: One of the questions that I get a lot is how do you know who's in need? And they’re right, because now where 86% of the population is considered in need. So for us, one of the things that we do to make sure that we really are helping those most at need. We do an assessment for each family and we rate their needs. In terms of priority, nothing more. So at the end of the day, if we get 300 requests for help, we're gonna help the 300. It's just for us, we prioritise. Because this family if we don't help them today, or this week, they might end up not having food at all at their table, while other families maybe can wait a bit longer. It’s sad that you have to prioritise because everyone has a need. But it's one of the tactics that we follow just to make sure that help goes to those that need it at most first. 

Sometimes it’s so hard for people to ask for help. And coming to our centre, that already for many is like something they wouldn’t have done if they didn’t need or were so much in need. So we try to make it as nice, as pleasant, as positive of an experience as possible, because we do want to change the face of how aid should be done.

Aly: What do you see as the future of your country, given the situation it’s in now and the direction things are going?

Terro: Statistically, we need more than, I think, 20 years to get back to where we were two years ago. It is looking very bad. And every time we say: “Oh, the worst has happened.” We are proved wrong. The worst is yet to come. We are really suffering a lot. I mean, I know from the families that we help people, are depressed, people are drained, they are helpless. Everyone is in survival mode. And as you know, survival mode is something that is supposedly temporary. But what if they don’t get better, then what? For me, I get helpless, but then I look at those volunteers doing what they love, helping others with no return whatsoever. And then I feel hope for Lebanon. So yes, as long as we have each other, we’re good. 

Aly: Maya, thank you so much for joining us, and I hope you feel better soon.

Terro: Thank you. 

Elissar Joseph Al Harouni: “I am Elissar Joseph Al Harouni. I worked in a restaurant, I was satisfied, and I made my house beautiful. Now I need help, my house was destroyed during the explosion. We live in two rooms because we haven’t finished yet fixing the other side of the house. We can’t afford the painting of the walls. My husband died 31 years ago, how can I have money? I don’t have a fridge. I don’t have a table, chairs or anything else. I didn’t have anything to celebrate this Christmas.”

Aly: Elisar is another example of a Lebanese person who’s lost her life’s earnings. People like her are now the subject of humanitarian aid. 

But what are the implications when short-term aid is called upon to deal with a structural problem like poverty? And how might it change the way humanitarians approach their jobs in the future? 

Joining us now is Nana Ndeda. She's the policy and advocacy director for Save the Children in Lebanon. Save the Children is providing Lebanese families with cash assistance, food parcels and school fees for children. Nana is normally based in Beirut, but she is currently joining us from Nairobi, Kenya. Welcome to the podcast. 

Ndeda: Thank you. Thank you very much. 

Aly: So international NGOs, like yours have been providing support to Palestinian and Syrian refugee communities in Lebanon for decades. What's different about this new group of people in need that you're now serving?

Nseda: Traditionally, international actors have provided assistance to the bulk of Syrian refugees and Palestinain refugees, since the beginning of the Syria crisis in 2012. And that assistance has evolved now to an increasing number of Lebanese communities. Especially since the start of the economic crisis, when we started seeing a lot more Lebanese communities seeking assistance. We’re seeing now a situation where over 70% of Lebanese communities are food insecure. Over 80% poverty rates, double the poverty rates from 2019. Meaning a lot more people are looking for alternatives for survival, to get basic food, to get medical assistance, to take the children to school. And a lot of that is now falling on the hands of humanitarian actors who now are needing to expand the support base to include more Lebanese communities.

Aly: And is there a difference to your mind in terms of the needs of somebody like a Lebanese family that has just recently kind of fallen into this situation, compared to the kinds of refugee populations that you were serving before?

Nseda: Their needs are largely the same. For a long time, even with the Syrian refugee population, the assistance we're providing was around education, around food assistance, around cash in kind, or psycho-social support for refugees, etc. These kinds of assistance are now needed a lot more by Lebanese communities. They access the same markets, the value of the Lira affects both communities, and the economic crisis has hit both communities very hard in the same way.

Aly: I think there's a perception when you just hear the facts of it that the middle class shouldn't be the subject of humanitarian response. How do you think that through, given that as you say, the needs are very much the same?

Nseda: The situation in Lebanon is of the sense that now the middle class has fallen far deep into poverty, and are now in need of humanitarian assistance. And without the government's ability to provide basic services to these communities, the source of support and assistance then has to come from humanitarian actors. It is a broadening of the caseload for humanitarians. But also it calls upon the humanitarian community in Lebanon to address those needs, because humanitarians are present and through their humanitarian imperative are being asked or being called upon to address the needs that are emerging right now.

Aly: So that makes perfect sense. I guess the challenge is rather obvious in that, this year's UN-led Humanitarian Response Plan was already aiming to serve 183 million people around the world, suffering from conflicts and disasters. And even that was ambitious, because the appeal for funding is unlikely to be fully funded. Now we’re talking about another 97 million people that are estimated to have fallen into acute poverty as a result of COVID-19. The scale is just enormous. So how do you tackle such a significant increase in the humanitarian caseload?  

Nseda: What this means for the humanitarian community is assessment of how we target communities, and how we define the indicators for vulnerability. In the past, it was quite obvious what the needs are for refugee communities. There’ll be need of protection assistance of various kinds. Kind of the basic indicators for assistance. And now when you’re looking at middle class falling into poverty, the indicators for that form of assistance then broaden up. Now we are looking at issues around fuel provision for families that need fuel to transport their children to school. We are looking at fuel assistance for winter, during the winter season when families need more heating in the household. We are looking at a broader scale of indicators that determine how we assist communities. 

Secondly, it's around how best and how effectively we are providing assistance. So in those targeting, how effective is the assistance being provided? Looking at how long we are providing assistance without allowing those communities to fall into deeper vulnerability and dependency on the aid sector. And looking at ways of gradually supporting them into levels of resilience, and graduating out of dependency on humanitarian assistance.

Aly: So how does that change your programming? If at all? What does humanitarian response need to look like when the indicators are different?

Nseda: The humanitarian response, at least in the context of Lebanon would now look at the wholesome being, the wholeness of a family or a household, looking at the various multiple needs that that family has. For Save the Children, for example, when we are targeting communities with cash assistance, we make sure that our systems support all the multiple needs of the multiple vulnerabilities that those households have, including the education needs of those children, including the child protection needs of those children, looking at income generation for the family. By combining our support and assistance to address the wholesome needs of communities and households, it becomes a lot more comprehensive.

Aly: Is there a different way of thinking about things when you know that you will not be able to sustain these communities over the long term and that there is going to have to be a handoff to either a government actor or development actor. Does that change the way you plan when you know that from the get-go, that it isn't going to be a short term response?

Nseda: Essentially, at the end of the day, humanitarian responses will not be able to cover the needs for the longest time. And humanitarian assistance does not fix the system that needs to be fixed in this regard, at least in the case of Lebanon. Therefore, at Save the Children and with many other agencies, in this context, there is a move now to address some of the longer term needs, including system support, working with government agencies, in trying to support those systems to take up some of the needs going forward. In Lebanon now, what is essential is to address those humanitarian needs that are coming up. But also to ensure that basic service provision is able to continue and that systems are running that can continue providing assistance, or delivering services to communities in the long run.

Aly: I want to play for you a clip from Marc DuBois. He's a humanitarian analyst who used to lead Medicine Sans Frontier, or Doctors Without Borders UK, but has for many years been warning against ‘mission creep’ within the humanitarian sector, and advocating for more of a back to basics kind of approach. And he shared a few thoughts with us on how we should think about the role of humanitarians in these kinds of situations:

Marc DuBois: When you look at the world today, you see a number of places where the urgent needs are in urban areas, maybe even middle income urban areas. And where those needs aren't about material goods like food or medical care, but putting cash in people's hands so they can feed their families. I think it's quite necessary in those situations for humanitarians to really understand the way in which social inequality, justice and poverty are playing a role in driving the immediate needs. But I think it's quite a different matter to think that it should be humanitarians that address that underlying causes, like injustice or poverty. And I think it's quite worrisome when you start to think about humanitarian aid as a kind of global welfare system. It’s just not set up to do so. Because it's designed to have to deal with that immediate problem of not having cash, which is I think one of the problems with a humanitarian delivery of welfare, is that humanitarians don't have the same powers and responsibilities as states. As unaccountable as states are, the humanitarian sector is even less accountable. 

The other problem with the humanitarian sector, becoming a sort of global welfare agency is that it doesn't address the causes of the problem. And it doesn't make the problems go away for the people who were affected. But it certainly makes the problems go away for the rest of the world.

Aly: So I'd love to get your thoughts on that. To what extent is your response at Save the Children part of what he's talking about here, where humanitarians are becoming a kind of global welfare system?

Nseda: I would agree with a section of the humanitarian system carrying a load or a party that is not essentially its own. But I also think humanitarians are being left with no choice. In a context like Lebanon where international development assistance is no longer flowing through, the governance structures are failing or have failed. A lot of what is necessary to deliver on the longer term needs of communities is not present. And therefore humanitarians are left with the burden of delivering assistance where it is needed. Regardless of whether that assistance is the basic feeding mouths, or providing cash for stability. That is just what he has left with. At the end of the day, the system requires a combination of efforts from all sectors of aid: humanitarian actors, development actors, stabilisation actors. The full system, taking up a nexus support in addressing needs. Therefore, where humanitarian stop, then development actors peak, and the system goes on and on like that. Otherwise, I think we'll get to the point where humanitarians continue providing services in their welfare system, which is unsustainable in the current funding environment and the current escalation of needs globally.

Aly: So many of the problems that the world faces today are exactly in that category where the problem is structural. And then humanitarians get left with a crisis to respond to. And I remember interviewing a humanitarian, just after the pandemic first began, and she said, this is a sudden onset crisis, where the solutions are not entirely humanitarian. This is her speaking, our solutions represent a sliver of what the world needs right now. It needs economic support, it needs debt relief, it needs welfare systems, rights, prison reform. It needs so many things. And humanitarians are a bit player in all of this. It leaves you in a kind of tricky situation, because there's no denying that the situation in Lebanon is a humanitarian crisis, as you say people need food. And yet, these challenges are linked to structural weaknesses that cannot be addressed by humanitarians. So how do you kind of think through that dilemma? How is this forcing a rethink for humanitarians in terms of what their position should be?

Nseda: For me, it comes back to having an accountable system. A system that holds accountability, not just for humanitarians, but also for development actors, and donors, in general. Where the system in Lebanon has failed has likely been due to a lack of accountability at various levels. While humanitarians can push for a defectiveness, at some level, the large part of it comes from the donor community, comes from international government, comes from the Lebanese government itself. And it's therefore necessarily that that accountability is pushed on a little bit more strongly. Now, the other thing I feel for humanitarians is we need to also look at how much we can take and how much we can push on delivering humanitarian assistance. It is essential that we deliver humanitarian assistance, but for how long and how will it be able to actually create the difference that is needed. We need to be very careful around pushing through into a protracted situation, which is quite possible now. If development assistance and structural reform is not resumed quickly, humanitarian assistance going forward will just lead to a longer and protracted situation for Lebanese communities.

Aly: If I'm hearing you right, you're saying humanitarians need to be careful not to become an excuse for prolonging that structural problem. 

Ndeda: Yes.

Aly: It's interesting, again, that's starting to be a common reflection. We, a couple of years ago organised an event in the early days of the pandemic, but also when there was quite a bit of civil unrest in the United States. And we looked at the kind of hypocrisy behind the whole concept of aid. And many of the speakers at that event, were saying that humanitarian aid is kind of propping up a system of global inequality, because it allows for - as Mark was suggesting - the perception that something is being done about it, while the structural root causes remain unaddressed. And so it becomes a perpetual situation of suffering and need. So I wonder what that means in terms of humanitarians' role in advocating for root causes to be addressed, even though it isn't necessarily your responsibility to be doing so?

Ndeda: Humanitarian presence with communities allows us to get a sense of some of those root causes. We interact with communities, we interact with government, we are interacting with stakeholders within the system. And we have a sense of what needs to change. We work with local communities, we work with local NGOs, who also have a really good sense of what needs to change. And I think it's high time that the drivers of need are highlighted. They are made known to stakeholders, duty bearers, donors, etc. And that is a role that humanitarian actors can play. I know service delivery is key, and it's important, but service delivery that is just given, while ignoring the environment around which we're delivering services is not enough. We need to be able to highlight a lot of the drivers of need that occur in these contexts, and ensure that the parts of the system that are responsible for addressing those needs are doing that part.

Aly: Which isn't always a comfortable place for humanitarians to be? 

Ndeda: No, it's not. 

Aly: Because then you start raising questions of neutrality. And if you're advocating or if you're pointing out who's to blame, that you're somehow less able to do your humanitarian job?

Ndeda: Yes. I view it as taking a rights based approach to addressing needs, where you put in the rights of communities and children at the centre of why you're delivering services, then it will give you the impact. You're taught to speak out and advocate for those issues, the drivers of need.

Aly: What is your sense of the extent to which that will actually happen moving forward? How do you see the future as someone who's in the middle of this mess in Lebanon and trying to navigate and manage it? And then looking at that multiplied in so many other places around the world? What do you think the outcome will be in the coming years?

Nseda: More and more as humanitarians and others get frustrated with this cyclic nature of how needs are being driven, and how needs are expanding in the world, we will step into this gray area. We've already started doing that with engaging the triple Nexus and things like that. And we are stepping in this gray area. And I think it'll give us a little bit more courage to speak up. What that means as well, is that we will start being viewed as not the traditional humanitarian, so we will get into this political space. Our neutrality, impartiality will be questioned. And I think at that point, we then need to come back as humanitarians and really define our place in that structure. In my view, it is beyond just basic service delivery. But looking at how that service is addressing the longer term fulfillment of rights of communities, creating democratic space and things like that, that is necessary for longer term development.

Aly: On the one hand, in some contexts, we had a recent episode on Ethiopia, where we looked at the politicisation of aid and that need for perceived impartiality, neutrality becomes even more important than ever. And then on the other hand, you have all these other trends, driving humanitarians to have to act differently, and to have to, as you say, enter into that grey political space. And in more and more context, it does seem like this is being put into question, that traditional approach of saying: we're just here to provide services, we're not getting involved in politics, we don't have an opinion on X, Y, or Z.

Ndeda: Yeah, the more we fail to have an opinion on the other areas of it, the more the humanitarian space will shrink. I feel like we then stop having the clout to engage in those pieces, because we have nothing to say. So we need to push the bar a little bit, try engage in those spaces, hold those who are accountable, accountable for their actions. And work a little bit better in ensuring that our role in providing services is within a certain space that is driven by rights, the rights of communities, rights of society. And that allows us then to enable us have more space in engagement.

Aly: As someone who is working in advocacy and who is navigating some of these questions. What advice would you give other humanitarian agencies that are struggling to adapt to this new reality of how I would describe it humanitarian problems that don't have humanitarian solutions? What's one practical thing that they can do to start tiptoeing into that gray political space?

Ndeda: I think it's important to get off the, singular, humanitarian silo. A lot of things have human consequences, but the solutions are beyond humanitarians. And therefore, I think it's really important for humanitarian actors to start engaging beyond this humanitarian space, engaging more with development and political actors. I'm not saying that that part of engagement is smooth, it’s definitely really difficult in a lot of contexts. But it's an important move to make. So starting to look at even community needs beyond the short term humanitarian assistance into the longer term needs of those communities. Starting to look at which other actors and players can engage in actually delivering services or providing solutions to these problems. Going beyond this space will be really important. 

Aly: Nana, thank you so much for joining us today.

Ndeda: Thank you, Heba. Thank you.

Aly: As I mentioned off the top, COVID’s impact on extreme poverty is one crisis that is on our radar in the year ahead. For the other trends, check out our annual feature on our website: 10 Crises to Watch. We’ll link to it in the show notes on our website:

If you’ve got thoughts on this episode, write to us or send us a voice note at [email protected]

Today we’ll leave you with a clip from Olivier de Schutter - the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty. He visited Lebanon last November to examine the government's efforts to alleviate poverty in the country. And when he presented his findings in November, he was quick to point out that Lebanon can’t rely for too long on international aid assistance to fight extreme poverty.

This podcast is a production of The New Humanitarian. 

This episode was produced and edited by Marthe van der Wolf. 

And I’m your host Heba Aly.

Thank you for listening to Rethinking Humanitarianism. 

Audio clip, United Nations, Nov. 2021:

Lebanon cannot continue to rely for its social protection programs on donor money alone. Now, of course, the international community has lots of sympathy for Lebanon. However much the international community can help, however much humanitarian assistance should be provided, and however much the IMF bailout can support the country in the short term, this is not a substitute for mobilising domestic resources in order to adopt and implement a national strategy for social protection.

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