UNITED NATIONS - World Bank chief issued a terse warning Friday that Lebanon was on the brink of a devastating crisis due to the growing number of Syrian refugees flowing into the country.
UNITED NATIONS – World Bank chief issued a terse warning Friday that Lebanon was on the brink of a devastating crisis due to the growing number of Syrian refugees flowing into the country.
“[…] The kind of influx of [refugees] into Lebanon would be the equivalent of the United States taking in over 50 million refugees in a short period of time,” Jim Yong Kim said, predicting that unemployment rate in Lebanon “will double from 11 to 22 percent.”
“We join the [UN] secretary general for urgent action and the generous support especially for Lebanon,” Mr. Kim told reporters in UN Headquarters in New York, speaking via video link from Washington, at a joint press conference with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
He said the World Bank and United Nations are “following the situation very closely” regarding the Syrian refugee movements into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
Refugee crisis became regional
Mr. Kim said that Turkey was also experiencing a huge influx of Syrian refugees, over half a million so far, adding that Turkey has been handling the situation better thanks to its larger population and more economic resources than Lebanon.
Number of Syrian refugees in Turkey is estimated at around 660,000.
“[Turkish] Prime Minister (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan expressed to me the extreme concern that they have as a result of this crisis,” said Kim, who paid a visit in Turkey earlier this week.
“We are doing everything we can and we are exercising every bit of our flexibility in moving money to this region as quickly as possible,” he said.
Donor countries still needed
Mr. Kim said, World Bank was ready to work with any donor government to help ease the crisis.
He stressed that the World Bank would also like to focus on issues of social protection, health and basic needs of refugees in the region, and Lebanon in particularly.
The WB president joined the UN secretary general’s call for “people to respond for immediate and generous support.”
According to media reports the Lebanon’s population has grown almost 20 percent over the past year because of the refugee influx. Some 790,000 Syrians are now in Lebanon “and live wherever they can find shelter,” New York Times reported last month.
Kim, however, said the World Bank had some limits and conditions on providing funds.
“Unfortunately Lebanon has reached their borrowing limit with us,” he said, adding that the Lebanese economy has already “taken $7.5 billion in terms of loses as a result of extremely generous acceptance of refugees.”
He said the Jordanian government had asked for WB support and the bank was “able to provide very quickly because they still had some room, some fiscal space in order to take that loan.”