It has been almost three years since Lebanon, previously labeled as the “Switzerland of the Middle East,” began to slowly drown in poverty. As the ESCWA report stated, 82% of the Lebanese and non-Lebanese population lives in multidimensional poverty while 40% of them live in extreme multidimensional poverty. Those numbers result from an unprecedented economic crisis that started in October 2019 and kept on worsening with the COVID-19 outbreak, the Beirut Port explosion, the ongoing corruption and the war in Ukraine. Here is everything to know about poverty in Lebanon.
One of the most important and dangerous symptoms of the poverty increase in Lebanon is the degradation of the health care system. The Lebanese lira has lost more than 90% of its value since 2019, making it impossible for many health care professionals (nurses and doctors) to live decently with their salaries, thus leading them to leave the country for better opportunities abroad. In addition to that, the country imports many medical care products and medicines, leading to a huge increase in their prices, making them unaffordable for many. Lebanon has the means to produce its drugs, an action that the actual government is encouraging while it still needs time before being fully implemented.
Public Utilities and Food Security
Another dimension to know about poverty in Lebanon is the lack of public utilities available to the people. The most famous, touching a majority of people, is the lack of electricity the state provides, forcing the Lebanese people to reach out to owners of private generators to have a few hours of electricity a day. However, this alternative has a considerable cost to Lebanese households. The fuel that powers the generators comes from abroad, requiring payments in USD and making it impossible for many to subscribe to this service amidst the severe economic crisis the country is going through.
A more recent issue Lebanon must face as a result of the War in Ukraine is the wheat crisis and with it a risk of shortage in bread production. The country imports more than 60% of its wheat from Ukraine. The urgency of this new issue also depends on the government’s capacity to secure enough quantities before any increase in the price of wheat.
The numerous challenges Lebanon has faced over the past three years have also had their effect on education. According to UNICEF, 260,000 Lebanese children risk interrupting their education. Whether it is the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the students to stop their studies because of the lack of means to pursue them online, the destruction of some schools in Beirut after the port explosion and the economic crisis forcing some schools and universities to increase their tuitions making them unaffordable for many.
Efforts to Help Lebanon
A year ago, the World Bank approved a $246 million project to provide 147,000 households with basic needs as well as cash transfers. More recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached an agreement of $3 billion with the Lebanese government to help Lebanon get out of the crisis. On another note, local NGOs are playing an important role in helping people in need. Private actors are also taking initiatives to benefit from this situation, by enhancing made in Lebanon products, thus relying less on imports.
Hence, having presented everything to know about poverty in Lebanon, shows clearly that the country is not in its best phase. However, hope is always there with small steps taken towards a better future and especially with a young generation who is learning from the mistakes of the older. Helping Lebanon is therefore helping a country full of potential and showing once again that it will rise despite all.
– Youssef Yazbek