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Source: Save The Children

  • New survey reveals half of all families living in two of the country’s regions unable to meet children’s basic needs

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 deteriorate[1]. This is in stark contrast to 2020 when all surveyed families were still able to meet the basic cost of living[2].

Since autumn 2019, Lebanon has sunk into one of the world’s worst financial crises in modern history[3]. 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[4].

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[5], 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. Cheaper, less nutritious food is being prioritised, 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[6].

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 we will 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 organisations 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 counselling 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 all families in ‘poorer’ wealth groups showed a Livelihood Protection deficit, with reduced spending on their children’s basic needs.

[3] Lebanon Sinking into One of the Most Severe Global Crises Episodes, amidst Deliberate Inaction (worldbank.org)

[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

[5] CPI http://www.cas.gov.lb/index.php/economic-statistics-en/cpi-en

[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.

Notes to the Editor:

  • Then Household Economy Analysis (HEA), was undertaken by the Inmaa consortium (Save the Children, Plan International, Akkarouna and the Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training), and funded by the European Union. Led by Save the Children, the HEA baselines were conducted in early 2021 in Akkar and Baalbek governorates, with the purpose of understanding the economic situation facing Lebanese families. All findings relate to the baseline reference period October 1, 2019, to September 30, 2020. Approximately 425 individuals across Akkar governorate and 230 individuals across Baalbek – Hermel governorate contributed to the research.
  • According to the HEA, Poor and Upper Poor Lebanese families in Akkar and Baalbek show a Livelihood Protection deficit – that is, the inability to meet the basic cost of living to afford education, healthcare, and nutritious food. Among poor households this averages 700,000 LBP per month, up to over 1,000,000 LBP per month. The Livelihood Protection threshold includes items and services that sustain these families’ livelihoods in the medium term at a locally acceptable standard of living. This threshold is not an aspirational value linked to a development objective, rather it is an emergency threshold that indicates when a household is meeting a minimum standard while remaining in this wealth group.
  • In October 2021, Save the Children warned that more children are at eating less than ever before in Lebanon, with many skipping meals due to rising food costs:  LEBANON: Children survive on potato and rice as their food intake is cut in half | Save the Children International

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