Poverty continues to loom over Lebanon’s most vulnerable communities, leaving them to battle with deteriorating living standards and several health hazards. Lebanese people’s quality of life sank to an unprecedented low due to many reasons. One of the most prominent reasons for the economic collapse in Lebanon is the Lebanese government’s immense amount of debts that add up to the “equivalent [of] 150% of national output.”
Lebanon’s Economic Landscape
Some financial experts describe the Lebanese government’s economic system “as a nationally regulated Ponzi scheme where new money is borrowed to pay existing creditors.” Adding to the nation’s troubles, the corrupt elite in Lebanon exploited the country’s foreign aid and income post-civil war and continue to do so to this day. The indebted government struggled to make ends meet, which led to the devaluation of the national Lebanese currency. While the economic collapse affected all citizens residing on Lebanese land, the already dire standard of life of the Lebanese lower-class became worse in several ways.
5 Ways the Economic Collapse in Lebanon Impacts Disadvantaged People
- Unlivable Wages: The official Lebanese currency, the Lebanese pound, “lost more than 90% of its value.” This extreme devaluation plunged the Lebanese further into poverty. The minimum wage in Lebanon’s value decreased from the equivalent of $450 monthly to what is now worth around $30 per month. As a consequence, “a family’s budget just for food is around five times the minimum wage,” says the Crisis Observatory at the American University of Beirut.
- Medicine Shortage: Due to the scarcity of foreign currency in the country, Lebanese pharmaceutical companies struggle with importing or manufacturing life-saving medicine. To counter this shortage, in July 2021, the Lebanese government lifted subsidies on most life-saving medicine. While this development affects the entire Lebanese population, those with limited or no income experience the greatest impact as medicine now becomes a luxury most cannot afford.
- Life-Threatening Power Outages: As the Lebanese economy continues to suffer, the government struggles to import fuel and maintain power generators. As a result, low-income neighborhoods across the country barely receive one hour of electricity per day. This circumstance proved to be extremely destructive as companies, bakeries, schools, grocery stores and even hospitals scaled back operations or completely closed down. Such closures made access to life-saving medical operations, as well as food, extremely challenging.
- Unemployment as a Result of Scarce Fuel: Due to the economic crisis, private and public sectors are incapable of importing essential fuel and gasoline. To combat the extreme gasoline shortage in the country, the Lebanese government raised gasoline prices by 66% in August 2021. As a result, many low-income independent contractors, such as taxi drivers and bus drivers, could not afford to work anymore. Due to the recent unemployment of low-income families’ primary breadwinners, the Lebanese working class plunges deeper into poverty.
- Deteriorating Diets: Lebanon’s most vulnerable people continue to miss one important component at their dinner tables: meat. As the country’s currency continues to devalue, the prices of meat soar. Toward the end of 2020, “fresh and frozen cattle meat prices” in Lebanon increased by 110%, according to a World Bank assessment. Moreover, the prices of chicken witnessed a 68.4% increase over the last few months. With no other affordable protein sources readily available, malnutrition threatens Lebanon’s impoverished and hungry people. Furthermore, UNICEF reports that “three in 10 families” assessed in April 2021 “had at least one child” missing meals.
Beit El Baraka
As the factors mentioned above overlap, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) launched several initiatives and efforts to aid Lebanon’s most vulnerable communities. One of the most prominent NGOs currently operating on a large scale within Lebanon is Beit El Bakara. The NGO is dedicated to helping Lebanon’s vulnerable families by covering medical expenses, paying bills and tuitions and providing meals and essential services. Since its launch, Beit El Baraka’s team helped more than 128 families pay their electricity bills, paid 93 families’ rental costs, covered the cost of treatment for 1,681 patients in need and refurbished 3,011 homes across 62 Lebanese areas.
The economic collapse in Lebanon is becoming increasingly dire. Without help, Lebanon and its people could face a catastrophic fate as more than half of the population sinks below the poverty line. Therefore, aiding the Lebanese population should be a top priority of the international community.
– Nohad Awada
Photo: Wikipedia Commons