Lebanon and Poverty…in Conflict
18-09-2023 | 10:10 المصدر: النهار - Katia Farhat
Lebanon entered the fourth year of deep economic, political, and social crises that have had disastrous consequences for rights and pushed over 80% of the population into poverty. According to the World Bank, the Lebanese crisis ranks among the most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century, and it is the product of three decades of impetuous fiscal and monetary policy.
Real GDP is estimated to have declined by 2.6% in 2022, bringing the total economic contraction since 2018 to 39.9% of GDP. The Lebanese pound continued to depreciate so the currency lost more than 98% of its pre-crisis value by February 2023 and episodes of rapid depreciation have recently intensified. Inflation averaged 171.2% in 2022, one of the highest rates globally, predominantly driven by the increase in prices of goods and services.
In April 2023 Lebanon recorded the highest nominal food price inflation rate in the world at 350% as reported by the World Bank. The cost of the food Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (SMEB) which was monitored by the World Food Programme (WFP) showed an increase by 5% between March and April 2023. The cost of the non-food basket also increased by 15% for the same period. The cost of the full basket registered a 10% monthly increase and a 350% annual increase. The proportion of poverty in 2016 is between 17.2% and 21.5%; it falls to values between 9.8% and 11.4% in 2018 and then increases to values between 59.0% and 75.9% in 2021-22. In 2023, 80% of the Lebanese people live in poverty and 36% of the Lebanese people are below the extreme poverty line (WFP, 2023). This means there are three poor people out of every five residents in Lebanon.
Real wages in Lebanon are falling so this leads the Lebanese people to work part-time as a second job in addition to their full time jobs to earn extra incomes in order to provide for themselves and their families. Moreover, a growing number of families are having to resort to sending their children to work in a desperate effort to survive the socio-economic crisis that is pervading the country. The compounding crises that are confronting the Lebanese children are creating an unbearable situation which are damaging their mental health and menacing to wipe out their hope for a better future.
In a report done by UNICEF to reveal the latest rapid assessment of children’s lives, it shows that almost 9 in 10 households do not have enough money to buy their basic needs. This forces them to resort to extreme measures to cope with the crisis. Also, there are 15% of households that stopped their children’s education up from 10% a year ago, and 52% reduced spending on education compared to 38% a year ago. Three quarters of households reduced spending on health treatment as compared to 6 in 10 years ago. Two in five households were forced to sell family possessions. There are more than 1 in 10 families that were forced to send children out to work instead of school. “My dream was to become an engineer, now I only dream about going back to school. I love going to school and my favorite subject is math” these were Sara’s words when she talked about her buried dream in her own country. The rising stress coupled with the deprivations are taking a severe toll on children’s mental health. Almost 7 in 10 caregivers said their children seemed anxious, nervous or worried, and almost half of them said their children were very sad or feeling depressed (UNICEF, 2023).
Lebanon still faces many problems that collapse public services and growing community. This continue to affect a wide segment of the Lebanese people who have fallen below the poverty line. Researchers shows that currently around 2.2 million vulnerable Lebanese need humanitarian assistance. “As long as the economy is contracting and crisis conditions persist, living standards are set for further erosion, poverty will continue to spiral,” said Jean-Christophe Carret, World Bank Middle East Country Director. He added, “delays in the implementation of a comprehensive reform and recovery plan will only further compound human and social capital losses and render the recovery longer and costlier."