On Wednesday, the Lebanese army stated that it is in desperate need of donor assistance to survive one of the world’s worst financial crashes, ahead of a UN-backed fundraising conference.
The virtual meeting that France will host on Thursday aims to offer the kind of humanitarian assistance usually reserved for countries grappling with conflict or natural disasters, which will be unlike previous donor conferences designed to provide training, weapons, or equipment.
“We are in need of food parcels, health care assistance, and support with soldiers’ pay,” a military source told on condition of anonymity. “The devaluation of the Lebanese pound is affecting soldiers and they are in need of support. Their salaries are not enough anymore.”
Already in July 2020, the army said it scrapped meat from the meals it gives for soldiers on duty, due to elevated food prices.
On Tuesday, army chief Joseph Aoun stated that “We are doing the impossible to ease the suffering and the economic woes of our soldiers. We are forced to turn to allied states to secure aid, and I am ready to go to the end of the world to procure assistance so that the army can stay on its feet.”
The army has been relying heavily on food donations from allied states since last summer’s monster port explosion in Beirut that killed more than 200 people and damaged swathes of the capital. The United States remains the biggest financial backer of the Lebanese military, which has bumped up its funding for the army by $15 million for this year to $120 million.
Meanwhile, Turkey, France, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates are among the army’s main food donors, with Iraq and Spain having previously offered medical assistance.
Thursday’s conference will host Lebanon’s International Support Group, which includes Gulf states, European countries, the US, Russia, and China.
The visit follows one conducted by Aoun last month to Paris, where he warned that the army could face darker days unless emergency support is provided.
Lebanon’s economic crisis, which the World Bank has labeled as one of the world’s worst since the 1850s, has eaten away at soldiers’ pay and slashed the military’s budget for maintenance and equipment, further threatening the country’s stability.