Hunger will kill children in Lebanon by year's end, charity says

Close to a million people in Beirut can no longer afford basic necessities, Save The Children reports. The effects of the economic crisis are worsening, with the local currency losing 80 per cent of its value. The crisis has hit everybody -- Lebanese families as well as Palestinian and Syrian refugees alike.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Close to a million people in Beirut can no longer afford basic necessities and children are likely to starve to death this year, Save The Children reported on Wednesday.

According to the charity, 910,000 people in Greater Beirut, more than half of them children, no longer have access to sufficient food because of the economic crisis.

"We will start seeing children dying from hunger before the end of the year," said Jad Sakr, acting country director of Save the Children in Lebanon.

For weeks, Lebanon has been the scene of violent anti-government protests, exacerbated by the hyper-devaluation of the country’s currency and the worst economic crisis in decades, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Bechara al-Rahi, has spoken out on several occasions against the danger of poverty and the consequential collapse of the political, social and institutional pact on which nation is based, attacking among others, Amal and Hezbollah for fuelling “chaos and revolt".

Lebanon's economy has collapsed in recent months, with the local currency losing 80 per cent of its value, businesses closing en masse and poverty soaring at the same alarming rate as unemployment, especially among young people. Poverty is also driving people to commit suicide.

The economic crisis, the worst in Lebanon's history, is compounded by the loss of income caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This crisis hits everybody -- Lebanese families, Palestinian and Syrian refugees alike," Sakr explained. For example, noted the charity, a young Syrian mother living in southern Lebanon whose nine-year-old daughter offered to sell tissues on the highway so her siblings would not starve.

Save The Children has urged the government of Lebanon, which has yet to strike a deal with the International Monetary Fund for emergency aid, to set up assistance to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable.