Lebanon’s economic crisis, compounded by the global coronavirus pandemic, has pushed nearly one million people, among them 500,000 children, in Beirut into a “[struggle] to survive”, a Save the Children report published yesterday says.
While more than 50 per cent of Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian respondents said they had forgone food for a whole day and one in five Lebanese families skipped meals during the pandemic, according to the report.
Children, even those from Lebanese middle-income families are increasingly eating less or nothing at all for a whole day just to make ends meet
said Jad Sakr, acting country director of Save the Children in Lebanon.
However, the Save the Children report claims these figures could only represent a small proportion of the problem, since families across Lebanon, not just in Beirut, are struggling to cope with the effects of the economic crisis and pandemic.
“The crisis hits everybody – Lebanese families, Palestinian and Syrian refugees alike,” Sakr said. “We will start seeing children dying from hunger before the end of the year.”
Using one case study, the organisation warned children could be forced out to work to help support their families after parents lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic-related lockdown.
My nine-year-old daughter (Sarah) is asking us [if she can] start to work – sell tissues on the highway. I couldn’t handle it and broke down in tears. My daughter wants to work just to carry some of the burden with us. Just to help us so her siblings don’t starve
the report quoted an interviewee as saying.
Not just hit by unemployment, however, the economic crisis and resulting currency collapse has caused rapid inflation and rising goods prices. Even families that are earning are often unable to purchase necessities.
Nine-year-old Sarah told Save the Children: “My sister cries all the time because she wants milk and we can’t buy it for her because not it costs 10,000 LBP [approximately $6.63].”
The charity later called on the Lebanese government to pass short- and long-term reforms, including implementing a social safety net, insurance and pensions system, aimed at protecting the most vulnerable from future economic shocks.