Social Policy Programme
UNICEF’s Social Policy programme generates evidence of child deprivation, equity, and promotes child-sensitive social protection and provides technical support to implement policies and public finance for inclusive development
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Lebanon is undergoing a severe economic collapse, driven by both a lack of social contract and a sustainable macroeconomic model. As the national currency has collapsed and hyperinflation is in its third year, Lebanon’s unprecedented compound crisis has left families struggling to survive, forcing many to adopt negative coping strategies, such as cutting down on food, healthcare or education expenses, and in many cases, sending their children to work. Soaring prices and widespread unemployment have plunged families into multidimensional deprivation severely affecting their ability to provide for their children’s overall wellbeing.
Much of the progress Lebanon had made towards achieving children’s rights – as defined by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – has been eroded. Children’s rights to health, welfare, protection, education, and play and recreation have all been affected. These deprivations are particularly severe for children with disabilities.
Children’s rights to health, welfare, protection, education, and play and recreation have all been affected
With no solution in sight to the crisis, children’s health and nutrition are deteriorating. More and more children are dropping out of school. Families are postponing needed healthcare for children. Family roles are being reversed as adults work less and children are earning income. The prolonged exposure to the harsh impact of the economic crisis and the loss of hope is also severely affecting children’s mental health.
Making matters worse, families lack adequate social protection. Even before the socio-economic crisis started to unfold in 2019, Lebanon’s social protection system suffered from large gaps in coverage and funding. Lebanon does not have a National Child Grant programme, nor a National Disability Allowance.
Large-scale economic and financial reforms are needed immediately to address the crisis and its impacts on children and their families. Lebanon needs a national budget, protected allocations for social services, and a progressive tax system. At the same time a major scale-up of social assistance will be critical, to support vulnerable households and eventually set the foundations for a stronger economy.
Social assistance needs to be expanded to support all vulnerable families
Social assistance needs to be expanded to support all vulnerable families. Child grants in particular are considered one of the most effective interventions to improve child well-being, reduce inequality and invest in a country as a whole. Cash transfers should be linked to other services, such as support in accessing healthcare, education and employment.
Child poverty needs to be measured and spoken about regularly and more openly in Lebanon so that people can be aware of its characteristics and determinants, as well as how it is changing, and policies designed to address it.
Policies that affect the prices of basic services as well as the accountability of those services must be informed by evidence. Reforming the tax system should also be a priority, to move towards a progressive tax structure that is efficient, fair and equal and that does not unduly impact poor and vulnerable families.
Our Key Achievements
Since the start of the crisis, UNICEF has refocused its programme to support vulnerable children, with a strong response to the economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosions that devastated swathes of Beirut on August 4, 2020.
- UNICEF, together with the ILO, supported the Government to develop Lebanon’s first National Social Protection Strategy. This strategy calls for the establishment of a National Child Grant and a National Disability Allowance.
- UNICEF launched the “Haddi” child grant in mid-2021, which reached 130,000 vulnerable children with cash grants in USD linked to service provision.As an emergency programme to respond to the socio-economic crisis, the initiative has proven its impact in supporting \ households in raising children.
- In 2022, UNICEF – working jointly with the ILO – finalised the design of the new National Disability Allowance that will be implemented by the Government of Lebanon to support people living with disabilities to face the extra costs of disability.
- In addition, UNICEF works with key local partners – including think tanks, civil society and academia – to further leverage analysis, research and advocacy on resource allocation and policy design.