Millions of dollars in aid to Lebanon are being lost in currency exchange as inflation soars out of control, but internal UN documents and interviews with officials suggest that fixing the problem faces political and logistical hurdles, and could even spark violence. 

Just under $500 million in cash aid is set to be given to Syrian refugees, Palestinian refugees, and an increasing number of Lebanese citizens in 2021. Given by UN agencies and NGOs instead of food or shelter, this assistance comes in the form of regular payments, often delivered on debit cards or vouchers.

But since beginning to fall in October 2019 due to a drop in money sent home from Lebanese abroad and a massive shortage of dollars, the Lebanese lira – or pound – has lost more than 85 percent of its value. Widespread protests began the same month, and politicians have been unable to form a government since a massive explosion hit Beirut’s port in August 2020.

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