More than half of Lebanon’s population are living in poverty, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) claimed in a report released yesterday.
According to data compiled in May 2020, the organisation’s “estimates reveal that more than 55 per cent of the country’s population is now trapped in poverty and struggling for bare necessities”, up from 28 per cent the previous year.
Approximately 2.7 million of Lebanon’s 6 million residents live below the poverty line, surviving on less than $14 per day, according to the report. While extreme poverty in Lebanon has nearly tripled in the last 12 months, increasing from eight to 23 per cent of the country’s population.
The Mediterranean state’s economic and political crises have caused poverty rates to rise significantly in recent months, even before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic or the Beirut blast.
Official estimates, however, suggest poverty rates are likely to continue rising in the wake of the 4 August explosion, which killed nearly 200, injured thousands more and made approximately 300,000 of Beirut’s residents homeless.
OCHA, the UN humanitarian agency, said in a report released yesterday that tens of thousands of Lebanese had lost their jobs or seen their salaries slashed after the blast.
It claimed that, “over 70,000 workers are estimated to have lost their jobs as a result of the explosions with direct implications for over 12,000 households”.
The findings correlate with the ESCWA report which claims that the once thriving Lebanese middle class has faced “a significant erosion” and now makes up less than 40 per cent of the population, while the “affluent group”, which constituted about 15 per cent of the population last year, is now made up of a mere five per cent of Lebanon’s residents.
In light of these figures, the UN report warned that many Lebanese citizens would be seeking to leave the country for better opportunities abroad in the near future.
However, Khalid Abu-Ismail, a senior economist at ESCWA, said in a video accompanying the report that there are “plenty” of solutions to Lebanon’s poverty problem.
The UN economist said the group had estimated that a one per cent contribution from the richest ten per cent of Lebanese to a solidarity fund to pay for a national social safety net could eradicate extreme poverty in the country.
He added, however, that international donations which focus on health and food security as well as a social safety net are needed immediately to mitigate the effects of Lebanon’s multiple crises on the country’s poorest residents.