Protecting vulnerable children and families through cash grants

Jihane’s family spent decades supporting one another, but this was increasingly difficult as Lebanon’s economy headed towards total collapse. Following the explosions, it became impossible

UNICEF Lebanon
Jihane, a 52-year-old Lebanese divorced mother
UNICEF2021/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon
03 August 2021

The August 4, 2020 Beirut Port explosions dealt a devastating blow to hundreds of thousands of families at a time when they were already struggling to cope with a massive economic crisis, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and political instability. Many lost their homes, health, possessions and livelihoods, putting children and other vulnerable groups at greater risk. For some 60,000 children and another 20,000 vulnerable people, a one-off grant in US dollars from UNICEF was a lifeline.

Jihane,[1] a 52-year-old Lebanese national, has lived since 1996 in her family home in Karantina, a Beirut neighbourhood that houses some of the city's most vulnerable residents. A divorced mother of three, she shares her apartment with her mother and her sister, and one adult son lives on the floor beneath hers.

The family spent decades supporting one another, but this was increasingly difficult as Lebanon’s economy headed towards total collapse.  Following the explosions, it became impossible.

With nowhere to turn for support, Jihane says the one-off cash support  she received from UNICEF was a lifeline as she had to stop work – and had no income – for a while because of injuries.

"I used the grant to buy fresh meat and produce for my mother, sister and me"

“It proved to be a huge help," she recalls. "I used the grant to buy fresh meat and produce for my mother, sister and me. It didn’t last long, but it helped get us through a difficult period.”

In September 2020, UNICEF launched an Emergency Cash Grant programme aimed at reaching up to 80,000 children and vulnerable individuals. The aim was to enable households to prioritize their specific needs to promote the wellbeing of their children and families.

Jihane is now back on the job at the supermarket where she has worked for the past  for 22 years. “But I can no longer afford to live like a normal human being," she laments. A salary of LBP1,000,000 a month is equivalent to around US$50 at the current black market exchange rate.  Since last September, when she received $240 in cash support from UNICEF, the value of the Lebanese currency has plunged further, by close to 80 per cent.

"My children used to help me, but now they can no longer even support their own families"

“I have to work seven days a week to earn enough money to pay for my medications," says Jihane, who was prescribed psychiatric medication after the explosions. “My children used to help me, but now they can no longer even support their own families.”

“People here are distraught”, she reflects. “Within the worst economic crisis this country has ever seen, following the explosions, and still surrounded by the effects of the pandemic, we have to survive on our own”.

She shakes her head and says, “All the elements are combining against us, and this isn’t over yet”.


[1] Name changed to protect her identity