Below the poverty line, the Issa family lives in northern Lebanon. Its members are deprived of the basic necessities of life. They wait for someone to come to them with a handful of pounds or a plate of food so that they do not sleep hungry.
How is the life in Lebanon?
The family lives in a semi-house, and all of its members are unemployed. Circumstances have made them unbelievable. The only young man who used to support his mother and two sisters became unable to move normally after he fell from a height of three floors a year ago, while working in a construction workshop. As for his mother, who used to help him by cultivating the field, she is in the hospital after her heart failed her and she needs surgery.
No words can describe the situation of Issa’s family, and as Zainab stresses to Al-Hurra, “we are not poor, but rather destitute, for the simplest things we do not have the price for, for months we have been unable to buy a gas bottle, we rely on firewood to prepare a meal of rice if we have another, Water and electricity do not know our homes, and had it not been for the solar energy panel that the United Nations kindly provided us and that barely lights a bulb for a few hours, the darkness would have been our shadow that does not leave us. In short, we live the life of the ancient man in a cave that takes the form of a house.
There are no doors, no tiles, no paint, no kitchen, in the house of the Issa family, Ahmed, Zainab’s brother, explains to Al-Hurra, “It is just a roof that protects us from the cold of winter and the heat of summer, and every day our situation gets worse, we wish for the simplest things that are axiomatic to the rest of the people, Is there anyone who believes that in this era, none of us owns a cell phone, and if it happens that someone wants to communicate with us, there is no way for him but to call our neighbor’s number, and I never exaggerate by saying that we are dead alive.
A new survey conducted by the World Bank recently revealed that “three out of five families in Lebanon classify themselves as poor or very poor, especially those who do not receive remittances from abroad,” noting in a report on the prospects for poverty in the world that “at a time when levels of Unemployment, the majority of people are now working in low-quality jobs.
Lebanon: Between exaggeration and realism
Even dreams abandoned the Issa family, and Zainab says, “Since the death of my father five years ago, the specter of tragedy began to haunt us, before entering and occupying every corner of our lives with the injury of my 28-year-old brother Ahmed, and our inability to treat him and secure the price of his medicine, and today my mother struggles Actual death on a hospital bed, and had it not been for the efforts of some activists in the town to raise a sum of money to help her in her recovery journey, we do not know what would have happened to her.
Zainab thought about looking for a job to ensure that they would not be cut off from bread, but her brother’s health condition and his suffering from electricity in his head also prompted her to rule out the idea, as he needs her to have her and his second sister by his side, and he says: “My third sister is married, but her husband’s financial conditions do not allow He can support us, even with a little, as the economic crisis casts a shadow over all the Lebanese, forcing them to be millionaires so that they can secure their daily sustenance only.
Ahmed’s neighbor also expressed the degree of extreme poverty that exhausted them, hoping that the people with white hands would stand by them, and he said: “They need everything from food, drink, medicine, electricity, furniture, electrical tools, etc., and if they started two months ago to benefit from the assistance card of the Ministry of Social Affairs, But it alone cannot lift them out of poverty.”
There is the academic definition of poverty, including the definition of the United Nations as “more than a mere lack of income, resources, or ensuring a sustainable source of livelihood, as its manifestations include hunger, malnutrition, diminished access to education and basic services, in addition to social discrimination, exclusion from society, and lack of opportunities for participation.” in making decisions”, but there is a difference between this definition and what is happening on the ground in Lebanon, according to what the economic researcher and banking risk expert, Dr. Muhammad Fahili, says.
It cannot be denied that poverty has a foothold in Lebanon, according to Fahili, “as well as the fact that the Lebanese were forced into austerity after they used to live a life inclined to luxury, but talking about extreme poverty and famine that infiltrated three out of five families is exaggerated, as it means that we have approximately 750 A thousand poor families, if we assume that the population of Lebanon is five million, which assumes the existence of a rampant social problem in every Lebanese street, which we do not touch.
He explains that theverty rate, despite the fact that “the Lebanese economy shrank from $55 billion in 2018, To 18 billion dollars today, of which ten billion are transfers from abroad, seven of which enter through official channels and three through unofficial methods, in addition to the billions that the Lebanese hide in their homes.
With the collapse of the exchange rate of the lira and the increase in prices, the cost of living in Lebanon automatically increased by 196 percent, until the beginning of April this year, compared to October 2022, according to a study by Information International.
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The number of family members was estimated at four, and the living differences in housing between the village or the city, and housing by ownership or rent were taken into consideration (health and hospitalization), while in October 2022 this cost ranged between 20 million and 26 million pounds, and this means that the cost of living increased, from October to April 2023, by a rate ranging between 95 and 196 percent.
The World Bank previously indicated that “Lebanon ranked first in the global ranking in terms of food price inflation, with an increase of 261 percent, between the end of February 2022 and the end of February 2023.” A few days ago, it pointed out that the average price inflation in this country recorded 171.2 percent. In 2022, it is expected that the average inflation rate will reach 165 percent, in 2023. Two days ago, the “World of Statistics” website indicated that Lebanon recorded the highest inflation rate in global food prices, at 352 percent.
Fheili believes that the main reason behind the rise in prices in Lebanon is the citizens’ loss of confidence in the economic situation, the political and financial systems, as well as in the oversight and judiciary agencies. Freezing their bank balances, which are estimated at $100 billion, as they are unable to access them except at an exchange rate of 15,000 pounds or in small amounts, with the exception of the beneficiaries of Circular 158 who get a fresh dollar.
“When a citizen loses confidence in the political system, the local currency becomes worthless for him,” according to Fahili, explaining that “this psychological factor is reflected in high prices, and therefore the link between the rise in the dollar exchange rate and the rise in prices is no longer realistic, and the evidence is after the dollarization of prices.” The exchange rate of the dollar declined in relation to the Lebanese currency, but the prices of commodities took an upward trend, as dollarization gave supermarket owners and merchants a margin to raise prices without the citizens noticing, and the rate of inflation varies from one region to another, as each commodity has a price that varies according to the region it is sold. In which”.
The economic researcher excludes that the food basket that was relied upon to measure the rate of inflation represents all Lebanese citizens, “especially since economic changes prompted the Lebanese to change their consumption options in order to be able to secure their basic needs, and this is the reason for their ability to adapt and withstand despite all the difficult circumstances that his country’s economy.”
For her part, the economist, Layal Mansour, does not rule out the inflation rate that Lebanon has reached, and tells Al-Hurra that it is not the first time that the country occupies the first ranks in the world, as “this is due first to imported inflation, that is, the global rise in prices is added.” Inflation resulting from the collapse of the national currency.
She points out that “if it were not for the remittances of expatriates, which equal 40 percent of the national product… the citizens would not have been able to withstand and secure their consumption expenses of food, drink and clothing,” noting that “Lebanon ranked second in the world in terms of the contribution of expatriate remittances to the gross domestic product, which It reached 37.8 percent in 2022.
The World Bank estimated the volume of expatriate remittances to Lebanon at $6.8 billion in 2022, ranking third regionally, preceded only by Egypt and Morocco, and first in the region and second globally, in terms of the contribution of expatriate remittances to the gross domestic product.
The cornerstone of advancement in Lebanon
The head of the Akkar Al-Zaher Charitable Association, the head of the Association of Akkar Mayors Associations and the mayor of the town of Benin, Zaher Al-Kassar, confirms, through his interactions with the citizens, that 70 percent of them are unable to secure their daily plate, as a result of the difficult economic conditions, and the insane rise in food prices, which have become mostly in dollars. , whose exchange rate is close to a threshold of 100 pounds.”
“Employees who receive their salaries in Lebanese pounds, and families who do not receive remittances from abroad, have become among the poor,” he says in an interview with Al-Hurra website.
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Welfare has become a thing of the past, and the major disaster lies, according to al-Kassar, “in medicine and hospitalization.” He stresses: “Whatever the amount of aid that reaches Lebanon will not cover all those in need. From here we see the attack by some Lebanese on the Syrian refugees, who share with them in obtaining aid, and on the government.” The Lebanese and international organizations bear their responsibility so that we do not reach an unimaginable consequence.
Al-Kassar stated that the communication of non-governmental associations and clerics in Akkar with expatriates contributed to alleviating the tragedy of some citizens, but “all these and initiatives cannot play the role of the Lebanese government, until the election of a president, the formation of a government, and the start of reforms that put an end to the collapse that has been going on for about four years.” Years, additional sources of support must be secured for the Ministry of Social Affairs in order to be able to distribute aid cards to all the poor and destitute.”
The World Bank expected the economy in Lebanon to contract by 0.5 percent this year, after it declined by 2.6 percent in 2022, pointing out that the economic downturn that afflicted this country between 2018 and 2022 wiped out the economic growth that had been achieved for a longer period. From 15 years.
Fahili considers that the general budget for the year 2022 launched the economic downturn for this year, “as it targeted the ability of the Lebanese to finance his consumption bill, as according to it the official dollar exchange rate was raised, fees and fresh dollars in banks were calculated on an exchange platform, a tax was imposed on income in dollars and with retroactive effect, and expenditures were approved.” without securing its financing, which caused inflationary pressures targeting consumption.
“Therefore, all growth that Lebanon will witness at this stage will come from consumption, remittances from abroad, and citizens’ desire to spend,” he stressed.
Mansour believes that the decline in the rate of economic contraction compared to last year does not mean that the collapse has necessarily stopped, but rather “it will continue until the adoption of a new exchange system through which the national currency will be dispensed with, as this is the first stone in the project to rebuild the country’s economy.”
While searching on Google News, I found several recent articles about life in Lebanon. One article from Reuters reported on the ongoing protests against the country’s economic crisis, while another from Al Jazeera discussed the challenges facing Lebanese families as they try to make ends meet. A third article from The Daily Star highlighted the growing problem of waste management in the country, as landfills overflow and garbage piles up in the streets. These articles provide a glimpse into the complex and difficult realities of life in Lebanon today.
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