Rabih, a father of three, lamented that the economic crisis in Lebanon now means that he can no longer feed his children enough. He also has to support his sick mother, saying providing her with medical care is his top priority.
“We can no longer afford hospital treatment. We can barely afford to buy medicine without being humiliated in the process,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Mirielle, another parent of three, said the situation had grown more dire in the past three years.
“Our lives have completely changed, especially when it comes to food. We are now trying to save everywhere and only buy essentials,” she added.
“My children’s lives now revolve around school and home. We no longer go out to restaurants or buy new clothes,” she said. “We have cut out everything from our lives. All I care about is my children. Just like everyone their age, they don’t know the joys of life.”
Eliane, who is expecting a baby, said she feels like she is headed towards the unknown.
Just like many around her, her living conditions and finances have been upended by the crisis.
“I am worried, not only about the price of milk and medicine, going to the hospital, and providing my child’s needs, but about whether medicine will actually be available,” she remarked.
“I’m not sure that my income and that of my husband will be enough for the next month given that the exchange rate to the dollar continues to rise and we are still being paid in Lebanese pounds,” she added.
Hassan revealed that his finances have become so dire that he was unable to enroll his children at school this year.
“School has become a luxury. I can longer provide basic food to my family and I have a sick child, whose medicine I cannot secure,” he added.
These are just samples of the reality endured by Lebanese families that have been edging closer towards poverty and have to live daily humiliation to secure their most basic needs and a semblance of a dignified life for their children.
The Ministry of Social Affairs has been working on an aid program, but the beneficiaries will be the neediest families, not all Lebanese who are suffering the pain of the current collapse.
The ministry has adopted two programs to help the neediest families.
The first had been in place for 11 years and benefitted 36,000 families only. After the coronavirus pandemic, it was expanded to cover 75,000 families. The families receive a monthly stipend in US dollars that varies according to the size of the family and helps them purchase their basic needs.
The second program, “Aman”, was adopted in January 2021. The International Bank had pledged to provide a loan to finance a ration card that would be part of the program on condition that Lebanese authorities implement much-needed reforms. The reforms were never carried out and the loan has remained on hold.
Had the reforms been made and the card introduced, the program would have covered a greater number of citizens, including those suffering from deep poverty and those who have lost their purchasing power.
At the moment, Aman benefits 150,000 of the poorest Lebanese families. They receive a monthly stipend in dollars and the goal is to eventually reach out to 225,000 families, or around 906,000 people.
The Ministry of Social Affairs has not carried out an accurate survey on the poverty in Lebanon since 2016, years before the crisis.
In March 2022, the government released the first indicator on multidimensional poverty that covered aspects such as education, health and financial stability. It found that in 2019, before the financial meltdown, 53.1 percent of the people lived in multidimensional poverty.
Policy and Research Specialist at Information International, Mohammad Chamseddine said statistics from late 2022 revealed the rich only accounted for 5 percent of the population in Lebanon and the middle class made up 40 percent – a drop from 70 percent in 2021. People above the poverty line made up 30 percent of the population, while 25 percent lived in poverty.
“It is evident that the social classes in Lebanon have changed. The level of poverty had risen from 25 to 55 percent and will likely grow in 2023 if the current collapse continues,” he said, citing the increase in the dollar exchange rate.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he explained that there are different types of poverty. There is the regular poverty, which makes up 55 percent of cases in Lebanon, where the citizen can no longer meet their basic food needs.
There is multidimensional poverty, which is adopted by ESCWA and the International Bank, and it accounts for 85 percent of cases in Lebanon. Any citizen who does not have any savings is considered poor, according to multidimensional poverty.
Chamseddine revealed that the majority of the poor, or 73 percent, are located in the North and northern Bekaa regions, 43 percent in the Akkar region, 30 percent in the Bekaa, 15 percent in Mount Lebanon, 10 percent in the South and 2 percent in Beirut.