Ambassador Edward Gabriel
Lebanon is a country of 4.5 million people hosting 1.5 million Syrian refugees—the equivalent, percentage-wise, of all of Canada and half of Mexico flowing into the U.S. in about four years. In meetings I had last week in Beirut, the country’s Minister of Refugees told me that Lebanon is the “sandbag” against a rising flood that keeps this problem from overflowing to Europe and the West. And after speaking with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and other top government officials, I fear that Lebanon may not be able to cope much longer.
The Lebanese have borne direct and indirect costs of nearly $20 billion as a result of the Syrian refugee crisis, in a country with an annual GDP of $48 billion. Half the refugee children are not in school (which are plagued by overcrowding), power shortages produce less than half the needed electricity, only one-third of households have access to clean water, and the environmental damage from lack of sewage treatment is a disaster.