The Republic of Lebanon is a small country with an estimated population of 4.97 million in 2014, plus an additional 260,000 Palestinians and other migrant workers. 44 percent of the population is young (below 24 years), and around 88 percent live in cities – the main ones being Beirut (capital), Saida, Tripoli, Zahleh, Jounieh, and Sour.
Lebanon is a medium-income, free-market economy with extensive links up with the developed world in most economic activities. The private sector contributed to over 80 percent of the GDP, and includes manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and trade and tourism, but is predominated by the services sector such as media and advertising, hotels and restaurants, and banking and finance.
The most recent Lebanon MDG report is for the period 2013-2014. According to this report, any progress made towards achieving the MDGs has been significantly challenged by a complex political situation (absence of a government Cabinet for 8 months at the time of writing, and later absence of a president of the republic) and the Syrian crisis, marked by a massive influx of refugees that is particularly affecting the health MDGs.
But even before these challenges, Lebanon was going through slow progress on the poverty reduction and environmental sustainability MDGs, as well as multifold political and socio-economic conditions that demand structural changes. Critical targets for gender, equality, poverty reduction, and the environment were yet to be achieved, and the political and spillover effects were unlikely to accelerate progress towards the MDG deadline.
Here are some facts from the Millennium Development Report 2013-2014:
MDG 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
The international measurement of poverty (US $1.25 per day) is not ideal for evaluating Lebanon’s condition. Instead, national poverty lines and other poverty indices are more practical as the concern is not just money-metric, but also involves multidimensional deprivation of basic needs.
Poverty in Lebanon is emphasised by sectoral and geographical disparities, and is more pronounced in agriculture and the informal sector. Most of the poor people continue to live far from the nation’s capital and main centres, in the peripheral areas of the North and South. However, there is an increase in slum population in urban centres. The poverty level in the capital (Beirut) is 5.8 percent compared to North Lebanon (Akkar and Tripoli) where 17.7 percent live in absolute poverty conditions.
There has been a decrease in the percentage of households deprived of basic needs (between low and extremely low satisfaction of basic needs) from 30.9 percent in 1995 to 24.6 percent in 2005. Individual poverty levels also declined from 34 percent to 25.6 percent, mostly due to natural demographic changes such as household size and age structure, as well as due to the partial improvements in the delivery of public service.
On the other hand, an assessment of income-related indicators, such as employment, economic dependency, and ownership of a car, revealed a negative change. The percentage of deprived households (poverty in terms of income and expenditure) has increased from 42.8 percent to 51.8 percent within the same period.
The distribution of wealth is largely unequal, with the poorest 20 percent of the population consuming only 7 percent of the nation’s total consumption, compared to the richest 20 percent consuming 43 percent. In other words, the share of the richest is 6 times that of the poorest.
Following the Syrian refugee influx, most of the refugees settled in the peripheral regions that are already considered very poor. Consequently, the Lebanese host communities and Syrian refugees are facing considerable hardships, as household consumption expenditure increases (higher cost of food) while income generation remains insufficient (increased workers). This has increased poverty in money-metric terms, with depending poverty in Lebanon.
The World Bank estimated that an additional 4 percent of Lebanon’s population was pushed into poverty in 2013, while the already poor were forced deeper into poverty.
MDG 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
Lebanon has fulfilled the second goal of the MDGs as per the internationally set target and indicators. The country has achieved nearly full enrolment in primary education and a high literacy rate among youth for both males and females.
Primary school education is mandatory in Lebanon, and free of charge in public schools. This has increased attendance ratios for girls and boys at the national level, which is at 98.3 percent.
Intermediate and secondary levels net enrolment rates reached 81.1 percent in 2009, although repetition and drop-outs remain a major issue at the last grade before transition from primary level. Consider that between 5.5 and 10 percent of children aged 12-17 are still in the primary cycle. This number has increased, as 90,000 Syrian refugee children (5-17 years) enrolled in public Lebanese schools in 2013/14.
MDG 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
Gender parity has been achieved at all educational levels in Lebanon. At the university level, 2009 data shows a ratio of girls to boys of 1.12, with bias against boys in the most remote poor locations. In these regions, boys usually drop out of school before girls in search of labour.
The narrowing of the female/male education gap is yet to fully reflect in labour force participation, as revealed by a 2010 survey showing that 70 percent of working-age men are in the labour force compared to 24 percent of women. However, the percentage of women has been gradually increasing, from 23 percent in 2009 and 21 percent in 2007, especially in the services sector.
Access of Lebanese women in leadership and national decision-making, as well as participation in political life remains quite weak, with less than 5 percent of women in national parliament. This is despite the constitution granting men and women equal rights.
MDG 4: Reduce Child Mortality
Lebanon has registered remarkable results with regard to reducing infant (under 5) mortality, which has fallen to a third of their 1996 level. Most causes of mortality include neonatal causes (65 percent), injuries (11 percent), and diarrhoea (1 percent), and unknown causes (20 percent).
Efforts led by the Ministry of Health, together with the civil society and private sector to build the capacity of the primary health-care system has to remarkable increase in vaccination coverage to nearly full coverage of the entire population (100 percent). These organs have introduced measures that reinforce routine vaccination and improve transportation and storage of vaccines at the central and peripheral levels.
However, some children are still unable to access the free vaccinations when the doctors impose a consultation fee.
MDG 5: Improve Maternal Health
This is another area in which Lebanon has recorded incredible success, becoming a leader in the Arab region. Maternal mortality ratio has declined by more than two-thirds compared to the 90s, to reach a ratio of 25 per 100,000 live births in 2010.
The proportion of pregnant women receiving skilled antenatal care is above the 95 percent threshold, which can be attributed to the expansion and increase in quality of the primary health-care system, increasing access to reproductive health services.
MDG 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases
The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Lebanon is still fairly low, though the trend of increasing prevalence of the disease is not being reversed in the context of a highly mobile population – tourism, migration, and increasing permissiveness in sexual relations.
The major channel of HIV spread in Lebanon is through sexual relations at 47 percent (27 percent from heterosexual behaviour; 22 percent homosexual; 1 percent bisexual; 50 percent unspecified), while that through vertical transmission – mother to child – is reported to be nil.
Lebanon is considered free of indigenous cases of malaria transmission. But due to its openness and travel cases, some tens of cases were imported from endemic areas: 44 in 2009, 66 in 2010, 83 in 2011, and 63 in 2013.
There has been a slight increase in the prevalence of tuberculosis in Lebanon, from 12 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009 to 15 per 100,000 in 2012 due to an influx in non-Lebanese patients. More cases of measles, hepatitis, and leishmaniasis have also been reported after the Syrian influx according to a 2014 survey.
MDG 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
Although coverage ratios have not changed much, forests in Lebanon have been facing a number of challenges due to unplanned urban expansion leading to soil erosion, habitat fragmentation, forest fires, disease and die-back, wood harvesting, and illegal quarrying.
Also, the water supply to households remains inadequate. Despite the large national public network coverage, an estimated 78 percent of households suffer delivery failure in the summer.
Additionally, Lebanon does not have adequate treatment plants in operation, leading to environmental degradation that is impacting groundwater resources in most parts of Lebanon. Most rural households don’t even have access to public sewage networks.
MDG 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
Lebanon has the potential for great economic growth, considering its strategic location at an intersection between East and West, its full currency convertibility, history of economic liberalism, and well-developed banking sector, though progress has been minimal. Growth of the ICT sector, for instance, has been rather slow compared to other Arab states and the world due to market-related structural problems, technical problems, lack of coordination, and frequent political squabbling between different government heads of telecommunications-related entities.
Summary – Mdg Progress of Lebanon
Recent data suggests that Lebanon has met the targets pertaining to education and health, MDG 2, MDG 4, and MDG 5, though it remains far from achieving poverty reduction and environmental sustainability – MDG 1 and MDG 7.
The results for other millennium development goals are rather mixed, especially because the influx of Syrian refugees has put additional pressure on Lebanon’s resources – due to the swelling demand for basic services and increased exposure to diseases – which could reverse some of the gains. However, the SDGs may help salvage the situation with more specific targets and possibly increased funding.