Restoring a living through cash assistance:
When 12-year-old Yara and her younger brother Ihab go to sleep, they share a few comforting looks and words, hoping that their house will stand strong for at least another day. They’re aware of the unfortunate circumstances that prevented their parents from building a structural foundation to support the weight of the house and keep them safe.
Before the multiple crises that have spiked poverty and food insecurity levels in Lebanon since 2019, the family enjoyed a decent life. However, like over half of the Lebanese today, Yara and Ihab’s parents, Edwin and Roula, weren’t immune to the human impact of the economic downturn.
After making sure their children are soundly asleep, Edwin and Roula can’t easily close their eyes. They stay up, thinking and rethinking their priorities and what they will have to give up this month while still being unable to build the support structure and prevent their house from collapsing. Since Edwin lost his job to the Lebanese economic crisis, nighttime stopped being a chance to relax.
Seizing Every Moment and Opportunity
Living in a mountainous area, Edwin is an early riser. He sees it as a blessing to make the most of his day, so he goes out looking for any job that can earn him money. Sometimes he works as a driver, and other times, as a gardener. He doesn’t earn much, but the skyrocketing prices of fuel limit him to job opportunities in the same low-paying area.
From her end, Roula does all she can to help. She supported Edwin when they decided to plant beans and sell them. She also stood by his side when they opened a small vegetable shop, but none of their efforts were sufficient to face the economic, fuel, and financial crises.
Forced to Adapt in the Face of Crisis
In earlier days, Edwin’s family lived in much better conditions. They used to stay in a safe, rented apartment before the crisis knocked on their doors, and the landlord asked them to leave.
Edwin couldn’t afford to rent any other place then. He and Roula decided to hastily set up the house they currently live in without enough cash or the option to wait before building a support wall.
Cash Assistance, the New Currency of Hope
Edwin and his family were deemed eligible for the National Poverty Targeting Programme (NPTP), a programme by the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA) and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers (PCM), supported by the World Food Programme (WFP) with funding from the European Union and other donors.
The family started receiving monthly cash assistance through a white e-card, akin to a bank card. They use it to redeem cash from ATMs, any local shop with a Point of Sale (POS), and more recently from any designated local Money Transfer Operators (MTOs). The cash can then be used to buy food or any other essentials.
Roula’s heart was comforted by this monthly amount that would help them survive, especially since winter was around the corner. To make the best out of it, she used last month’s cash to hoard some food and prepare her pantry with what’s known as the Lebanese Mouneh — tomato paste for cooking, kishk, and pickled eggplant.
Another month, she used the money to buy Yara and Ihab different school basics and help them stay focused on their education. She hopes that her choices would help her family stay nourished, well-educated, and hopefully safe if Edwin will afford to build the support wall on which their survival could depend.
In April 2023, 371,000 vulnerable Lebanese are receiving monthly cash assistance through the National Poverty Targeting Programme (NPTP) funded by the European Union and other donors. With this layer of financial security, struggling families feel reassured and encouraged to keep up their resilience and look towards the future, no matter how unpromising the present may seem.
About the National Poverty Targeting Programme (NPTP)
As the oldest safety net in Lebanon since 2011, the National Poverty Targeting Programme provides monthly cash assistance to the poorest Lebanese. It is led by the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA) and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers (PCM). Since 2014, WFP, with the generous funding of the European Union and other donors, has been supporting the food assistance component of the NPTP through e-cards that are redeemable at various access points across Lebanon. As for the use of cash, it is unrestricted so that families can decide what they need the most.
In April 2023, 371,000 vulnerable Lebanese are receiving monthly cash assistance through this programme.
With such a layer of financial security, struggling families feel reassured and encouraged to keep up their resilience and look forward to the future, no matter how unpromising the present may seem.