UN ends fuel aid to Lebanese hospitals, despite 'needs still growing'

UN ends fuel aid to Lebanese hospitals, despite 'needs still growing'
The UN ends its fuel program to Lebanon's hospital despite energy needs growing more acute.
3 min read
06 April, 2022
Lebanon national power grid provides a maximum of three hours of electricity a day. [Getty]

The UN announced the end of its fuel aid program to Lebanon on Monday, which has provided emergency fuel to hundreds of water and health facilities in the country for the last six months.

The program had delivered over 10.4 million litres of fuel to 622 water and healthcare facilities since September 2021 in an effort to lessen the impact of Lebanon's severe energy crisis.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi warned that the energy crisis is ongoing and urged the Lebanese government "to find a sustainable solution to this issue."

Even with the UN fuel aid program, Lebanon has struggled to keep the lights on over the last two years.

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The country's foreign currency crunch has hamstrung fuel importation and its notoriously corrupt energy sector has led to a power grid that gives no more than two to three hours of power on most days.

The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has only worsened the shortage, as Lebanon’s central bank struggles to get dollars to importers amidst heightened global energy prices.

The energy crisis has affected all levels of Lebanese society, from individual households and critical infrastructure.

Many Lebanese use individual power generators to power their homes, though the bill to operate these are rising – with some paying as much as 10 times the minimum wage to keep them running.

At the height of Lebanon's power shortage in August, the American University of Beirut hospital warned that unless it received an urgent fuel transfer, over 150 patients would die.

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One of Beirut's largest public hospitals, Rafik Hariri, announced in the summer that air conditioning would be turned off in most of its wings because of the energy crisis.

To fill the gap, hospitals have relied on ad-hoc solutions, including last-minute donations of fuel from the Lebanese army and wealthy individuals who had access to stores of fuels.

NGOs and organisations like the UN have also played a critical role, stemming the need for fuel and funds in the absence of Lebanon’s state.

The UN has warned that Lebanon’s water sector is nearing the precipice, with the energy-intensive system of pumps used to pipe the water into urban centres unsustainable with the power shortage.

Lebanon signed a deal to import fuel from Egypt and electricity via Jordan and Syria, but despite a flurry of diplomacy in foreign capitals, neither fuel nor electricity has reached the country.

Lebanon's energy minister has said that the infrastructure for the deal needs more work, while Egypt has sought stronger assurances that it would not fall afoul of US sanctions on Syria.

As the high heat of summer approaches and tourists flock to the vacation destination, Lebanon’s energy needs will only grow.