August 4, 2021 — Mohammad Nasser, Acting Country Director for the International Rescue Committee in Lebanon, said:
“A year since the Beirut explosion, we have seen the situation deteriorate for almost everyone living within Lebanon’s borders. Skyrocketing food prices, job losses and the drastic drop in the value of the Lebanese currency have had an especially negative impact on children. As food prices have increased and people’s purchasing power has decreased, we have seen an alarming rise in the number of children engaged in child labour. In a recent IRC survey, we found that for many households, working children have become the main breadwinner for their family. However, the situation is so dire that what little money they can earn to boost the family’s income has not been enough to keep hunger at bay. 84% of the working children we spoke to said that they worry about their household not having enough to eat, and 56% said that they have had to go to bed on an empty stomach. To cope with this, families have tried to adapt in a number of ways. Some have reduced portion sizes, some now eat just two meals a day, some have had to stop sending their children to school to save money, and others have made the difficult decision to marry off their daughters. Girls have always been at risk of child marriage here, and the multiple and compounding crises have pushed many families over the brink, robbing an increasing number of children of their childhood.
“The situation is getting worse by the day and people are struggling to make ends meet. In March this year, those reporting daily wages as a key source of their household’s income dropped to just 40% of respondents, and 42% reported that they had faced excessive wage reductions. With the looming threat that subsidised food items - such as cooking oil and infant formula - will soon no longer be available, we are extremely concerned that many of those already struggling, will soon be plunged into complete destitution. People fear eviction because they cannot afford to pay their rent and already, mothers have told us that they have resorted to diluting cows’ milk with water because they can no longer afford to buy infant formula to feed their children. But the difficulties and the suffering do not stop there. Barely anyone is exempt from these struggles. We have seen a marked increase in domestic and intimate partner violence over the past year, with women and girls at particular risk. There are critical shortages of basic medicines - even paracetamol has run out in some pharmacies. For people with disabilities, life has become even harder, as funding to support them has been reduced and many can no longer access the specialised care that they need. For the elderly, their life savings have been reduced to nothing with the currency’s ongoing devaluation, and this is having a severe effect on their mental health. Across the country, people are at their wits’ end. They are losing hope. Even my own colleagues are finding it hard to see how things will get better. The emotional strain people in Lebanon are under is immense. The gravity of the current situation cannot be overstated. One year on from the blast in Beirut, the country needs more support than ever. The international community rallied round in the immediate aftermath of the explosions, and it is vital that this support continues so that the country can get back on its feet.”
About the International Rescue Committee in Lebanon
The IRC began working in Lebanon in 2012, supporting both Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese communities. The organisation supports thousands of people through its work implementing education, economic recovery and development, and women’s and child protection programs in all regions of the country. It also provides legal assistance and skills training, and across all programming it works to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.
In the aftermath of the Beirut explosion the IRC provided emergency cash and protection assistance - including psychological first aid - to those impacted. The organisation prioritised children, families and individuals who were residing in blast-affected areas; those who suffered high levels of property damage or destruction of their livelihoods; and individuals and families with limited resources to cope with the effects of the damage to property and wellbeing. This included people with disabilities (both new and pre-existing), older people without support networks, female-headed households, and families who suffered physical injuries and/or severe psychological distress.