Conflicts & War

Scraping by in Lebanon without medicine, electricity or fuel

By Noemí Jabois and Ana María Guzelian

Beirut, Jul 30 (EFE).- Every day, Ahmad, his wife and four young children wake up at dawn, the humid heat of late July filling their small apartment on the outskirts of Beirut as soon as the fan stops spinning due to the four to five-hour blackouts every morning.

For weeks now, electricity supplied by the government has been reaching Lebanese homes for a mere one or two hours a day, with the companies that operate the private electric generators rationing the supply amid crippling fuel shortages.

“Government electricity doesn’t even reach one hour a day, the rest is all from the generator and the generator is cut from 6 am to 10 or 11 am. All of us, including the children, wake up at 6 am because of the heat,” Ahmad explains to Efe sitting in the semi-darkness of his home in Shatila refugee camp, a large slum populated by Palestinians.

The economic crisis unleashed at the end of 2019 in Lebanon, one of the worst the world has seen in 150 years, has plunged more than half the population into poverty.

The deterioration over the past year has made it almost impossible for this Palestinian family, whose only livelihood is Ahmad’s carpenter salary, to make ends meet.

“There are many things we can’t buy anymore, including chicken and (red) meat. A lot of things,” he laments.

His salary is about 2.4 million Lebanese pounds a month, but a family of five needs at least 3.5 million or about five times the Lebanese minimum wage for food alone, according to estimates by the American University of Beirut (AUB) Crisis Observatory.

In a report released this week, the center warned that prices of basic foodstuffs have risen by more than 50% in just one month, while a list of 10 staple foods such as vegetables, dairy and oil has increased by 700% since mid-2019.

The AUB Observatory attributes this rampant food inflation to the local currency’s loss of value against the dollar, which has depreciated by more than 90% in just two years.

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