BEIRUT -- So far this year, the United States has provided more than $400 million in humanitarian aid to Lebanon to help it cope with a multi-dimensional crisis that it has classified as a "complex emergency".
As the single largest donor to Lebanon -- this year, and in previous years as well -- it has stepped up to help the country as it grapples with a political, economic and health crisis, among other challenges.
These challenges include hosting about 1.5 million refugees from Syria alone, as well as rebuilding parts of the capital city in the aftermath of the catastrophic August 2020 blast at Beirut port.
In a greeting to the people of Lebanon on their independence day, November 22, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recognised "both the rich culture and perseverance of the Lebanese people" and reaffirmed US support.
"During these trying times, the United States will continue to stand by the people of Lebanon and support their hopes for a better future," he said.
In a message to an August donor conference in Paris, US President Joe Biden announced that the United States would provide almost $100 million in additional humanitarian aid to Lebanon, touching on food, security, health, shelter and education.
Comprehensive support package
The assistance, provided via the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department, is helping Lebanese affected by the coronavirus pandemic and its compounding socioeconomic impacts.
It is also helping Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
The $41 million of additional USAID funding is providing urgently needed food assistance, health care, protection and water and sanitation support to communities, including those impacted by COVID-19.
"Protection" means "child protection, gender-based violence ... prevention, and mental health and PSS [psychosocial support] services", according to a September statement by USAID.
This also includes food assistance to help 400,000 vulnerable Lebanese.
Directly following the Beirut port explosion, the United States provided initial disaster in-kind assistance worth $17 million to Lebanon, including food aid, medical supplies, and financial assistance to the Lebanese Red Cross.
It ultimately provided more than $38 million in emergency assistance.
In the aftermath of the blast, USAID helped more than 46 stores to cover the cost of repairs, warehousing, equipment, technical assistance and marketing support to enable them to restart operations and improve productivity.
It has helped more than 300 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), via in-kind grants, PSS sessions, and business development courses for business owners with special needs and disabilities.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the United States has been providing the Internal Security Forces (ISF) with in-kind assistance via the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
This assistance has included more than $400,000 worth of preventive and personal protection equipment (PPE) kits to protect against COVID-19.
US funding also has significantly contributed to stemming the spread of the virus and making polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and vaccines available to the Lebanese people and to Syrian refugees.
Help came 'at the right time'
The US assistance for COVID-19 "came at the right time, and was distributed through the Lebanese army to government and private hospitals", said Lebanese MP Assem Araji, who serves on the parliamentary health committee.
"The US assistance reduced the cost burden of citizens and of the state's health care and hospitalisation due to the spread of the coronavirus," he said.
"It [the United States] is deserving of thanks for everything it has contributed and will contribute as we face a new wave of the virus, amid the state's persistent inability to bear its repercussions," he said.
The US humanitarian assistance to Lebanon under the current circumstances "is the largest provided to Lebanon", said economist Antoine Farah.
"It is the top country in terms of the size of humanitarian aid provided to Lebanon," Farah said, adding that the assistance is helpful as it "targets specific groups and sectors".
The United States is keen to work with local authorities to ensure the aid reaches its intended recipients, he said.
This includes the food aid going to about 400,000 Lebanese, he said, "which contributes to alleviating the suffering with the poverty rate in Lebanon reaching 80% today".