By Victoria Zimmerman
The situation in Lebanon continues to decline as a growing economic crisis has caused an increase in displacement and food insecurity. According to USAID, 1.5 million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon, making Lebanon the leading country to host the most refugees per capita than any other country in the world.
Lebanon’s currency has depreciated to a record low as of December 20, which has increased the cost of living and food, leading to a rise in food insecurity in the country.
Human Rights Watch’s senior economic justice researcher Lena Simet said, “Three years into the economic crisis, the government has not acted sufficiently, and the existing system reaches an exceedingly small share of those with low incomes, leaving the majority entirely unprotected.”
A key part of Lebanon’s economic crisis is its failed state electricity grid, which has cost the government over $40 billion with annual losses of up to $1.5 billion. As a result, the government has made significant power cuts that only provide households with about an hour of state electricity per day, forcing them to seek power from private generator suppliers.
"Syrian women and girls in an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 3 February 2017" by DFID - UK Department for International Development
Many have blamed the government and its ruling elites for the economic crisis, accusing them of corruption and financial mismanagement. Recently, a European judicial delegation has started to arrive in Lebanon to probe the country’s Central Bank governor and other individuals over suspected corruption. The state electricity company has been criticized for its lack of transparency and reckless financial behavior. Overall, the government has made poor financial decisions that have led to a compounding crisis in the country.
Human Rights Watch conducted a survey of 1,209 households in Lebanon to gather information about people’s economic conditions and their ability to afford food, medicines, housing, and education. They found that 94% of the lowest income reported difficulty paying for essentials, while 26% of those with the highest incomes reported difficulties.
USAID has noted that 90% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are in need of assistance and 800,000 are projected to face emergency levels of acute food insecurity through April. It is also reported that refugees have been cutting the number of meals eaten per day and prioritizing buying food over health and education expenses.
If the situation in Lebanon continues to be left unaddressed, it is projected that many will enter crisis level food insecurity. The Lebanese government must take accountability and work with the international community to alleviate the economic crisis.
The people living in Lebanon will continue to suffer if significant changes are not made, so it is time that the government and international community act.