Rising Numbers of Lebanese Families Unable to Afford Food, Education for Their Children
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Jan. 25, 2022) – Destitute families in parts of Lebanon have drastically reduced spending on food, medicine, and education for their children, putting their health and wellbeing in jeopardy, according to a new report released by Save the Children and the Inmaa Consortium.
The research found that more than half of the Lebanese families surveyed in the country's Akkar and Baalbek-Hermel governorates were living in poverty and struggling to support their children as living conditions quickly deteriorated. This is in stark contrast to 2020, when all surveyed families were still able to meet the basic cost of living.
Since autumn 2019, Lebanon has sunk into one of the world's worst financial crises in modern history. As a result, its currency has lost more than 90% of its value over the past two years, and poverty has skyrocketed, with more than three-quarters of the Lebanese population living below the poverty line.
Hiba*, 53, lives with her husband and six children in Akkar, where they now face a daily battle of survival. The family can no longer afford water or to go see a doctor when a family member is sick.
"We try to stick to the bare minimum," said Hiba*. "We've experienced poverty before, but this is something else. My children barely eat one meal a day. Their school grades dropped significantly, but all we can think of is making sure we stay warm and healthy during this winter."
Her daughter Salam*, 21, explained that she wakes up every morning feeling anxious about what the day will bring.
"It feels as though our lives went from bad to worse in a matter of seconds," said Salam*. "[Before,] we were still able to afford meat, we had electricity. Now, there are days I wonder how we will survive. I fear for our health the most. If we continue consuming one meal a day, then I worry by next month we'll start seeing the consequences such as malnutrition."
Food prices across the country have soared by up to 570% since 2020, forcing families like Hiba's* to drastically change their diets to cope with the rising costs.
According to the Household Economy Analysis, the most vulnerable children in Akkar and Baalbek-Hermel governorates are skipping entire meals. Instead, cheaper, less nutritious food is being prioritized, and portion sizes are smaller, putting children at grave risk of malnutrition.
The situation in Baalbek is of particular concern, as children from vulnerable households are barely getting the minimum calories they need to survive.
Malakeh*, 61, lives in Baalbek with her son and 12-year-old grandson. She explained that the past three years have been especially challenging. Her son is the family's sole breadwinner, earning roughly US $1,000 a month – which barely covers their rent and utilities as inflation continues to surge.
"Our electricity bill alone is US$400," said Malakeh*. "Some nights, I lay awake in my bed wondering, fearing, what the next day will bring. What will we eat, how will we stay warm? Considering how expensive everything is, how will we survive? One of my fears is having my grandson drop out of school and start working."
Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children's Country Director in Lebanon, said:
"Lebanon's economic fallout is leaving families destitute and struggling to care for their children. There is now a real danger that rising costs will drive an increase in malnutrition, stunting, and preventable child deaths.
"We're seeing the situation in Akkar and Baalbek-Hermel governorates rapidly deteriorate in particular. When comparing household incomes from 2020 to now, vulnerable families undeniably do not have the funds to get by. As a result, all children from lower-income families in these regions are not eating the food they need to get through the day.
"Thousands of children will be at risk of suffering irreversible damage if families continue to reduce spending on their health and wellbeing."
To respond to the multiple crises impacting communities across Lebanon - especially children - Save the Children and Inmaa Consortium partners call on governments, donors, and aid organizations to work together to coordinate an effective and accountable response to meet the growing needs across the country, ensure children and families have access to quality health care, education, and social allowances, and prevent increases in hunger and malnutrition.
Save the Children is supporting families like Hiba*'s and Malakeh*'s through cash transfers and counseling to ensure their children can thrive. Through this "cash plus" approach, children are protected from the impact of increasing poverty in Lebanon.
1 According to the Household Economy Analysis (HEA), 59% of families surveyed in Akkar and 51% of families in Baalbek are facing livelihood protection deficits – that is, the inability to meet the basic cost of living to afford education, healthcare, and nutritious food.
2 According to the HEA's baseline assessment, all surveyed families in 2020 in Akkar and Baalbek were able to meet the basic cost of living to afford education, healthcare, and nutritious food. In 2021, all surveyed families in 'poorer' wealth groups showed a Livelihood Protection deficit, with reduced spending on their children's basic needs.
4 The UN estimates that 78% of the Lebanese population lives below the poverty line, with 36% percent of the population living in extreme poverty: UN urges Lebanon to implement reforms as extreme poverty grows | United Nations News | Al Jazeera
6 Households in the 'poor wealth group' in Baalbek are barely meeting their Survival Threshold - the minimum number of calories required from the cheapest foods to maintain subsistence.
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