A Humanitarian Crisis Threatens Lebanon
By Samar El-Yassir, Anera's Lebanon Country Director
Lebanon rang in 2020 with fireworks and the clanging of spoons on pots, the sound of people protesting government corruption and mismanagement.
It has been a few months since the start of the protests — a revolution really. Since the initial protest on October 17th, the situation has escalated and the country is on the verge of a humanitarian emergency.
The financial crisis, which was a problem before the revolution, has become increasingly worse. The value of the Lebanese pound is plummeting and the IMF estimates that half the population is living under the poverty line. Hundreds of companies have already closed and many more are likely to do so. Those lucky to still have jobs have seen their salaries slashed.
Because people can no longer withdraw dollars from ATMs, many of us spend hours in line at banks to take out money. Demonstrations have remained mostly peaceful, but there have been violent clashes between protesters and establishment supporters and security forces, some of which have unfortunately proven deadly. Although the roads are now open, movement in and around Beirut, and throughout the country, has been haphazard and can change in a moment.
Anera’s staff and programs are greatly affected, yet we are still working as diligently as ever. I am very proud of our team here. They are, of course, concerned about the safety and well-being of themselves and their families. But they are also working extra hours, because they are committed to responding to the crisis. We have daily check-ins with staff, volunteers, and partners, including UNICEF and UNHCR.
Attendance is down for all of our formal and informal education courses. One of the hardest hit is our apprenticeship program. We had opportunities lined up for many apprentices and were working toward 30 percent placement in permanent jobs. All of that collapsed around us. There are no opportunities now. So we are adapting our work to the new circumstances.
In order to address immediate needs, our programs are now largely redirected toward humanitarian response. We’re paying our hospitality vocational education graduates to work in communal kitchens to make meals for hungry families. Our construction grads are prepping refugee shelters for winter. Sewing grads are making baby kits and warm clothes for those who need them. I’m proud to say that Anera is a leader in responding to what is happening in Lebanon.
Health Care in Crisis
As of this writing, the health care sector is experiencing a shortage of supplies and medicines. Our partner health clinics expect a medical catastrophe to follow if the situation in Lebanon continues to decay. With no political solution in sight, we must prepare now for the worst to come.
We have already identified a 20 percent increase in the gap between the supply of medicines available and the quantities needed. We estimate that within three months, the gap will increase by 50 percent. Prices for these items are soaring as inflation increases at alarming rates — for the month of October alone, inflation rose five percent.
This health care crisis is driven by the nation’s reliance on the U.S. dollar. Much of the country’s crucial business is conducted in dollars, rather than the Lebanese pound. Dollars pay for imports of food, medicines, and fuel. Lebanon brings in around 1.2 billion dollars worth of pharmaceutical items per year. Due to the cash controls imposed, imports have ground to a halt and the result are major, life-threatening shortages.
Unfortunately, in times of crisis, the already vulnerable are the first to be hit, and often the hardest. Our recipients are telling us that kidney dialysis and cancer patients have had to reduce their treatments due to shortages of their medications. We expect that with the deteriorating economic situation, more and more Lebanese and non-Lebanese families will fall under the poverty line and be dependent on the public health care system, which will further exacerbate the medical shortages.
Getting Ready For What's Next
No one knows how or when this will end, but the situation will likely worsen before it improves. You, our valued donors and partners, can help families in Lebanon get ready for what comes next.
By The Numbers
Responding to the Situation in Lebanon,
Anera donors have
Anera’s on-the-job training students are making a positive difference in their communities throughout Lebanon.
From improving refugee camp infrastructure to responding to the growing humanitarian crisis, these students have shown that they have the skills, knowledge and work ethic to build a better Lebanon. On-the-job training is an essential part of Anera’s vocational education program in Lebanon — supported by YOU. With the growing economic crisis and rising unemployment, Anera donors are also supporting these students by employing them for their skills as part of the humanitarian crisis response.