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Since 2017, Institute Circle has been present in Lebanon, providing humanitarian aid with the aim of alleviating and preventing human suffering and preserving human dignity. The country, which hosts the largest number of refugees per capita, has been facing a deepening political, economic, financial and social crisis for several years.

The majority of the European population, and also of the Slovenian population, cannot imagine that a country once considered to be the "Switzerland" of the Middle East' is collapsing. The local population and the attentive visitor have the feeling that the country is on the verge of apocalypse - while government institutions are collapsing in the absence of a president, with a paralysed parliament and a dysfunctional government, Lebanon is slowly falling apart.

The economic and financial crisis in the country, which hosts more than one million Syrian and more than 200 000 Palestinian refugees, is one of the three worst global crises in the last 170 years, according to the World Bank. The Lebanese lira lost more than 500% of its value between 2019 and 2021, and again last year lost another 100%, according to the World Bank. Inflation reached to more than 170 per cent in 2022 alone. Some four million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, including 1.5 million displaced Syrians and 2.2 million vulnerable Lebanese. An estimated 80% of Lebanese population lives in poverty and 36% below the extreme poverty line, while 90% of Syrian refugees are unable to cover their basic needs.

Already weak public services are on the verge of collapse. The state does not provide electricity and water, so the few who can afford it have to look for more expensive alternative sources. The failure to maintain sanitation infrastructure has led to risks of the spread of diseases such as cholera, and the education system is under pressure - children from twenty-five percent of households were forced to drop out of school and earn money in 2022. According to UNICEF, 52 per cent of households have cut spending on children's education in the past year, and 75 per cent have cut spending on health care.

In these circumstances girls and women are the most vulnerable ones, especially those who provide for their families and come from various disadvantaged groups.

The crisis has led to an increase in gender-based violence, including sexual exploitation and sexual harassment, child marriages continue to take place. Stress and pressures within households due to the inability to provide basic necessities of life lead to violence against women within the family. Gender-based violence also occurs outside the home, in communities where women and other vulnerable groups are exposed to harassment and lack of privacy, attacks in the dark due to inadequate lighting, the presence of armed groups and militias, etc. Women are also exposed to sexual exploitation, extortion and trafficking due to high levels of debt, inability to pay rent or to buy basic necessities.

Most victims never seek help because of fear of retaliation, financial dependence on the perpetrator, fear of stigmatisation and condemnation by their family and society. In addition, there are only a limited number of specialised legal services or health and psychosocial care options available to victims of violence. Many times victims are also not informed about where and how they could get support or are unable to afford the costs of transport and services themselves.

The Institute Circle, in cooperation with the Lebanese NGO Nabaa and with funding from the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, has therefore been active in Lebanon for several years. We have been working in the field of prevention of gender-based violence, education and awareness-raising on gender equality and women's rights in communities and amongst duty bearers. We provide gynaecological care and education on reproductive and sexual health, and we also provide food support for the most vulnerable female-headed families.


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