Lebanon has long had an open policy with regards to hosting refugees, a tradition which today has resulted in a Lebanese population where one in five persons are refugees. Despite having faced a civil war (1975-1990), conflict with Israel and the Syrian crisis, Lebanon has managed to progress and become a middle-income country. However, the current economic and financial crisis being dealt with nationally is having socio-economic implications, with the introduction of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 bringing additional economic hardships. A nationwide lockdown, the closure of businesses and numerous people faced with unemployment has led to a significant segment of the population (Lebanese and other) being at risk of falling below the poverty line.
Given Lebanon’s past, the Government of Lebanon has stood by its policy to prohibit the establishment of formal refugee camps. Given this stance, the majority of refugees in the country - nowadays primarily of Syrian origin - live in neighbourhoods where already vulnerable host communities reside. Despite Lebanon’s openness and welcoming nature towards refugees, who are often seen as victims of turmoil in their homes, their continuous presence due to a lengthy crisis has put a definite strain on the country’s economy and led to political polarisation regarding hosting of refugees.
These ongoing struggles, now coupled with the COVID-19 crisis, bring about the possibility of renewed conflict and tensions caused by a competition for already strained resources, one of which is water. The Lebanese water sector has long been under-resourced, and the country’s water has been two-thirds consumed, with half of the system requiring upgrades and maintenance. The introduction of approximately 1.5 million refugees to the country has put unusual pressures on the country’s water supply and wastewater infrastructure, increasing demand and contributing to low service quality.
As a resource of paramount importance, the availability and access to a safe water supply system is regarded as vital for good public health and can boost countries’ growth and in turn contribute to the reduction of poverty. For this reason, the European Union (EU) currently has 16 projects, valued at approximately EUR 130 million, in the area of water and wastewater in Lebanon. AETS has been awarded a three-year contract to assist the Delegation of the European Union (EUD) to Lebanon to monitor these EU-funded projects dealing with water and wastewater. Specifically, AETS’ team will perform regular monitoring of the ongoing projects, promoting the objectives of the European Commission, namely: environment and climate change, rights-based approach, persons with disability, indigenous peoples and gender equality. The monitoring performed by the AETS team will result in advice and recommendations regarding the implementation of said projects to ensure that these are supporting the improvement of Lebanon’s water sector.