A mother and her daughter huddle close together in a shelter for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

 Lubna* and her daughter, Syrian refugees, live in Lebanon in a temporary shelter crowded together with four other families, making social distancing near impossible.

Lebanon Crisis Relief Fund
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Economic Crisis Combined with COVID-19 Is Pushing Lebanon Towards a Hunger Crisis

On August 4, 2020, a massive explosion in Beirut rocked Lebanon's capitol city and caused catasrtophic damaage across a six mile radius. Reports estimated 300,000 people were immediatley left homeless, including more than 100,000 children. 

The explosion, which killed some 150 people and wounded thousands more, could not have come at a worse time. Recent analysis by Save the Children showed that over half a million children in greater Beirut were already struggling to survive or were even going hungry. "This explosion will have only made their situation worse,” said Jad Sakr, Country Director of Save the Children in Beirut.

While Lebanon’s economic problems have been building for years, protests in the fall of 2019 ignighted a political crisis as well. The main protests, which took place on Sunday October 20, are believed to have brought together more than 1.5 million protesters. 

Just a few months later, in February 2020, COVID-19 reached Lebanon. With it, the world’s children became vulnerable to getting sick, living in quarantine or possibly being separated from their families. At the same time, lockdowns, a rise in unemployment and widespread business closures all took a heavy toll on the country.

The country is home to more than one million Syrian refugees. With more than 70% of refugees in Lebanon living under the poverty line in overcrowded conditions, self-isolation is virtually impossible.

Lebanon is now facing increasing likelihood of severe food insecurity, rising unemployment, increased rates of poverty, and more.

  • Since mass protests began last October, the Lebanese pound has lost 80% of its value. 
  • Nearly 41% of people reporting not being able to keep a reserve of food at home during the pandemic due to financial stress.
  • A staggering 64% of Syrians living in Lebanon report the same.
  • The World Bank has projected a significant rise to the number of people living below the poverty level –up to 52% by end of 2020.[i]

For many Lebanese and Syrian families who are unemployed, healthcare access has become a challenge. In these circumstances, children are at increased risk of child labor, which reduces their chances of returning to school when they reopen.

Data from Save the Children’s Global Childhood Report shows that child marriage is reportedly on the rise for girls among Syrian refugee populations in Lebanon.

The combined impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and the economic freefall on people’s livelihoods is catastrophic, particularly for the most vulnerable populations. Since the start of the pandemic, Save the Children’s global response plan has placed special attention to scenarios of high transmission rates in low-resource countries.

Our response includes training health teams worldwide how to protect themselves and prevent further spread of the disease. We are also supplying the personal protective equipment and other supplies frontline health staff desperately need. In addition, we are protecting children and families that may be separated due to quarantine.

In Lebanon, Save the Children and its partners began refurbishing a restaurant, a factory and seven other buildings to be used as isolation centers. Turning empty tents in refugee settlements in the Bekaa valley into isolation units, patients are able to self-isolate within the camps.

“If one person gets infected, we are worried that the whole camp will be at risk,” said Jihad*, 42, a Syrian refugee living in the Bekaa valley. “Some people are spending the little they have on masks and disinfectants. It has become more important than food.”

[i] UNHCR

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