The Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) is the main government entity responsible for provision of social safety nets in Lebanon. It provides social services to specific categories of vulnerable groups, primarily through its Social Development Centers (SDCs). The MOSA has placed poverty alleviation as one of its main priorities and established the National Poverty Targeting Program (NPTP) in 2011 as the first poverty-targeted social assistance program for the poorest and most vulnerable Lebanese families. The MOSA has also placed the reform, reinforcement, and capacitation of its social development centers (SDCs) among its priorities to enable them to fulfill their mandated roles, including relief work such as in the case of the Syrian refugee crisis. The SDCs provide social services and promote integrated development at the individual, household and community levels. Finally, the MOSA is committed to the reform of its community development programs through the adoption of an effective and transparent mechanism for the allocation of financial support to communities and community-based organizations.
The NPTP is managed by the MOSA and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers (PCM). It is the first poverty-targeted social assistance program in Lebanon with the objective to “provide social assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable Lebanese households based on transparent criteria that assess each household’s eligibility to receive assistance, given available public resources”. The NPTP is based on a proxy-means testing (PMT) targeting mechanism and is implemented through approximately 500 social workers and inspectors operating at the level of 115 SDCs. The social workers/inspectors have been trained to implement the targeting method and collect needed household information that is verified and processed using an automated management information system.
To date, the NPTP social assistance (the basket of benefits) consists of the following: (i) comprehensive health coverage for beneficiaries in public and private hospitals through the waiver of 10-15 percent copayments for hospitalization; (ii) coverage of chronic disease prescription medications; and (iii) registration fee waivers and free books for students in primary and secondary public schools; (iv) food baskets for eligible households. In 2012, the Council of Ministers allocated US$28 million for the financing of the social assistance, demonstrating its commitment to the NPTP. By May 2014, more than 140,000 households (580,000 individuals) had applied to the program, and approximately 100,000 households (460,000 individuals) were deemed eligible to receive the benefits.
Going forward, in response to rising poverty levels in communities hosting refugees and in order to help mitigate tensions between the refugee and Lebanese communities, the GOL plans to enhance the package of social assistance provided through the NPTP by including food assistance via the electronic card food voucher system, currently being implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Lebanon for more than 670,000 Syrian refugees. The food basket benefit previously distributed by the NPTP has been discontinued and replaced with the e-card food voucher. In addition, primary health care services, through the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), will be included in the package of benefits eligible under the NPTP. The GOL will also expand the coverage of the NPTP to include additional beneficiaries.