Socio-economic meltdown leaves Lebanese ‘hanging on by a thread’

16 June 2022

With livelihoods in tatters and hopes almost shattered, the Lebanese are “hanging on by a thread,” the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator said on Thursday, announcing the extension of the Emergency Response Plan (ERP) to address the rapidly deteriorating situation.

“I have listened to stories of shock and of loss. Young people whose dream is simply to go to school are now chasing informal jobs to provide for their families,” Najat Rochdi told journalists at a press briefing.

“Others desperately seek to leave and start a new life elsewhere, leaving the country almost void of its most rich and promising human capital”.

Socio-economic meltdown

According to World Bank estimates, real GDP is projected to contract by a further 6.5 per cent this year, on the back of a 10.5 per cent and 21.4 per cent decline, in 2021 and 2020 respectively.

The currency has devalued sharply, while inflation has reached a devastating 890 per cent.

The country’s socio-economic meltdown has been further exacerbated by the Ukrainian war, which is reflected in Lebanon’s wheat reserves depletion and soaring fuel price, threatening food security.

Scrambling for work

As unemployment increases, the minimum monthly wage is less than $25.

The Labour Force Survey, issued in January by the International Labour Organization (ILO), shows that almost one-third of Lebanon’s labour force is unemployed, with unemployment tremendously increasing from 11.4 per cent in 2018-2019 to 29.6 per cent this year. A Labour Force Survey, issued in January by the International Labour Organization (ILO), shows that almost a third of Lebanon’s workforce is unemployed, with unemployment increasing from 11.4 per cent in 2018-2019, to 29.6 per cent this year.

And youth unemployment stands at 47.8 per cent among those aged 15 to 24.

“Joblessness has become the tip of the iceberg, throwing away an entire productive and creative generation that can help build forward a better Lebanon”, said the Humanitarian Coordinator.

‘Mind-blowing numbers’

Global market increases in crude oil prices have been mirrored nationally by cost spikes in gasoline, diesel, and gas – with spill-over effects detrimentally impacting the Lebanese.

“It threatens to tip thousands of families over the edge into food insecurity, malnutrition, and possibly hunger,” she continued, highlighting a recent assessment saying that 2.2 million require support to access to food and other basic needs until the end of the year – a 46 percent increase on last year.

Moreover, 90 per cent of families are consuming cheaper food, 60 per cent limiting portion size, and 41 per cent reducing the number of meals.

“These are mind-blowing numbers that raise the alarm about food insecurity in the country,” Ms. Rochdi said.

A grim view

She stressed the importance of “a comprehensive and inclusive social protection policy” as the “only possible exit strategy” to help between short-term emergency interventions, and a longer-term rights-based approach that “guarantees a more dignified future for all”.

A comprehensive and inclusive social protection policy...the only possible exit strategy Resident Coordinator

The country’s health sector is “on the verge of collapse” as 1.95 million people need humanitarian health services – a 43 per cent increase since last August.

Citing the World health Organization (WHO), she pointed to skyrocketing hospitalization costs, overstretched primary healthcare facilities, exorbitant medicine prices and acute shortages in medical supplies and power.

Most vulnerable affected

“Lebanon’s crisis is affecting everyone, everywhere across the country, with women bearing the brunt of the profound impact,” the Resident Coordinator continued, warning that gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and abuse are also rising.

Around 75 per cent of Lebanese women are jobless, and among the 25 per cent who are in the labour force, 10 per cent are unemployed.

And according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), hundreds of thousands of children go to bed hungry, lack healthcare, and work to help support their families – scrapping their education.

“This reality is worsening by the day and children’s health and safety are being jeopardized,” she said, pointing to children under five missing out on routine vaccinations, some 200,000 of whom suffer a form of malnutrition, while stunting now effects some seven per cent, “a worrying indicator of chronic malnutrition…likely to worsen if food insecurity continues to increase”.

“This must end”, she exclaimed. “Children are the future of this country, and we all have to support them, empower them, and protect them now, to avoid a ‘lost generation’,” the Resident Coordinator spelled out.

Lebanon’s UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Najat Rochdi, announces  at a press conference, the extension of the Emergency Response Plan (ERP).
OCHA
Lebanon’s UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Najat Rochdi, announces at a press conference, the extension of the Emergency Response Plan (ERP).

Steadfast crisis response

Under Ms. Rochdi’s leadership, the Humanitarian Country Team launched a 12-month coordinated multi-sectoral ERP while warning that short-term solutions must be replaced with sustainable ones, which address root causes of compounding crises.

“This lies in the concept of ‘emergency development’ that shapes the recently signed UN Cooperation Framework and presents a transitional phase” to help stem humanitarian needs, said the Resident Coordinator.

Since August 2021, the ERP has received $197 million to assist some 600,000 vulnerable Lebanese, migrants, and Palestine refugees affected by the crisis.

From then through to April, it has provided nearly 650,000 with monthly food assistance, supported 300,000 with health interventions, and around 286,000 with daily clean water.

Moreover, emergency fuel provisions have helped support over 600 health facilities.

Urgent appeal

However, with 2.2 million Lebanese, 86,200 migrants, 207,800 Palestine refugees and 1.5 million Syrian refugees requiring emergency aid, Ms. Rochdi again appealed to the Government to “find a sustainable solution…and take decisive actions in adopting the necessary reforms to address this problem”.

Meanwhile, the UN has extended the ERP until the end of 2022, which requires an additional $163 million to fulfil the added humanitarian needs of the mounting number of vulnerable people.

“Despite the scale and magnitude of the hardships, I personally see this crisis as an opportunity…to unlock the potential that this country has in the path of development and recovery,” said the Humanitarian Coordinator.

Lebanon Revised Emergency Response Plan 2021 - 2022 Overview
Sources: UN and humanitarian partners
Lebanon Revised Emergency Response Plan 2021 - 2022 Overview

 

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