After losing a significant amount of aid money to Lebanese banks, UNICEF has started disbursing aid handouts in U.S. dollars in Lebanon, the Thomson Reuters Foundation has reported.
As part of its new Haddi (Next to Me) humanitarian initiative, UNICEF provides cash aid to 70,000 families of vulnerable children who are being deprived of adequate education and healthcare and exposed to violence, child labor, and early marriage.
The program is one of many the United Nations has implemented in Lebanon over the past couple of years in response to Lebanon’s compounding crises.
The decision to hand UNICEF donations to families in dollars comes after a report revealed that between a third and half of the U.N. aid sent to Lebanon had been getting lost to unfavorable exchange rates adopted by Lebanese banks.
“UNICEF chose to explore the risks and feasibility aspects related to switching to USD disbursements… we assessed that the benefits were important and made the decision to switch to USD,” UNICEF has told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
To do so, the Fund has resorted to relying on money transfer services instead of banks to disburse cash aid, which amounts to $40, $60, or $80, depending on the number of children per family.
In a time when a single U.S. dollar is trading for nearly 20,000 Lebanese pounds, the purchasing power of the Lebanese is crushed. A recent UNICEF survey concluded that over 30% of children in Lebanon were sleeping on an empty stomach.