Fr Michel Abboud describes Lebanon’s tragic situation. The value of salaries is waning, while speculation feeds the black market. Pharmacies go on a strike day this Friday. Caritas Lebanon president calls on the international community and the Lebanese diaspora to help.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Lebanon is in a deep economic, political and social crisis.
“We can always find a piece of bread, that is not lacking, but not having medicines is terrible,” said Fr Michel Abboud, President of Caritas Lebanon.
“Hospitals can't pay doctors or operate equipment. We are in a critical situation, but we don't want to die while waiting for a solution to the many problems.”
“The rising dollar is at the root of the problem,” he explained. “Once a salary was worth a thousand dollars, today it is worth a hundred. The cost of living is up in every domain.”
Due to a now chronic shortage of medicines, the Association of Pharmacies announced a one-day shutdown this Friday in protest against the progressively worsening situation with almost no more supplies, including life-saving drugs and baby formula.
The latter can be found on the black market at inflated prices, further complicating things for families already heavily burdened by the crisis.
The Association complained about the “failure of drug importers to deliver needed medicines to pharmacies.” The group said that “more than a month has passed since drug importers stopped delivering medicines, mainly those for chronic diseases.”
Likewise, “Our stock of infant formula has completely run out, while we find it available on social media pages at double prices, which indicates that some are monopolizing it,” the Association added.
The crisis has already crossed certain “red lines”. Drugs for COVID-19 treatment have disappeared amid the ongoing pandemic.
“The lack of supplies is probably due to speculation,” Caritas Lebanon president said. “Amid the crisis and shortages, drugs appear. The question then is whether they are really in short supply or kept back to drive up prices or resell them on the black market.”
For Fr Abboud “we have reached a point of no return by taking away drugs from a population already in difficulty since without drugs, some of them crucial, it is impossible to stay alive”.
What is more, the clergyman notes that there is a glaring contractions between a majority of people who are in need, and a small group who have come out of the latest round of lockdowns and closures better off, crowding restaurants and other public places.
“This means that there is money somewhere. If we want to be positive, we need to find a way to redistribute it so that the most can benefit from it. Not all is lost!”.
For a long time Lebanon has been in the grip of a serious political and economic crises. Last October, President Michel Aoun gave three-time Prime Minister Saad Hariri a mandate to form a new cabinet, but he has failed so far because of domestic divisions.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the twin double explosion at the port of Beirut made matters far worse, plunging 55 per cent of the population below the poverty line during the ongoing emergency.
The has triggered a wave of suicides and a rush to buy the few drugs left, while hospitals are on the verge of a collapse.
“A lot is at stake in Lebanon’s crisis,” Fr Abboud noted, “not least the war in Syria and the huge influx of refugees into Lebanon, a third and more of the population.
“This is why an international solution to the emergency must be found, while we as a Church appeal to the Lebanese diaspora to continue supporting us in this time of need.”