World Bank official says Lebanon MP vaccination plan a 'violation' risks financing cut-off

World Bank official says Lebanon MP vaccination plan a 'violation' risks financing cut-off
Lebanese officials agreed to the 'equitable' distribution of Covid-19 vaccines but are now risking millions in funding from the World Bank.
2 min read
23 February, 2021
At least 16 MPs have been vaccinated [Getty]
Lebanon's plan to vaccinate parliamentarians over the age of 75 is a "breach of terms" agreed with the World Bank and may result in funding being revoked, an official said on Tuesday.

"Everyone has to register and wait for their turn," said Saroj Kumar Jha, the World Bank's regional director for the Middle East.

Jha was responding on Twitter to reports that Lebanon had begun on Tuesday vaccinating MPs and parliamentary staff over the age of 75.

"This is not in line with the national plan agreed with @WorldBank and we would record it breach of terms and conditions agreed with us for fair and equitable vaccination," he said.

If the "violation" is confirmed Jha said that the World Bank could "suspend financing for vaccines and support for COVID19 response across Lebanon".

The World Bank has supplied Lebanon with $34 million so far to finance vaccinations for two million people, with health workers and those with chronic health conditions made a priority.

A number of parliamentarians and staff have already been vaccinated, according to local media.

Several of them are under the age of 75, said Thomson Reuters Foundation reporter Timour Azhari.

Abdel-Rahman Bizri, head of the country's Covid-19 vaccination committee, announced he will resign on Tuesday afternoon.

The immunisation of MPs was carried out without his knowledge, Bizri said.

Parliament secretary Adnan Daher has rejected claims the politicians were vaccinated out of turn.

"All the MPs who received the jab have registered on the official platform and are eligible for the jab according to their age and their turn has came and this is what we did," he said in a statement carried by state news agency NNA.

Lebanon officially kicked off its Covid-19 vaccination campaign last week.

Farid Belhaj, the World Bank's vice president for North Africa and the Middle East, explicitly denied there would be cronyism or nepotism in the distribution of vaccine doses.

"Let me say it very clearly: 'There will be no wasta'," he said in a statement last week.

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