Beirut (Associated Press)-The United Nations said on Tuesday that Lebanon’s severe economic crisis has left some children starved, denied access to good medical services, and forced other children to drop out of school to help their families.
At the time of the release of the UN Children’s Agency report, the Lebanese pound against the U.S. dollar exchanged at US$23,500-close to the low point briefly touched in the summer-further eroding the purchasing power of families in this small country.According to the United Nations, nearly three-quarters of Lebanon’s 6 million residents, including 1 million Syrian refugees, are now living in poverty
“Unless we take action now, the future of every child in Lebanon is at stake,” said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF representative in Lebanon.
Lebanon’s two-year economic collapse stemmed from decades of corruption and mismanagement, which the World Bank described as one of the worst in the world since the 1850s. Since October 2019, tens of thousands of people have been unemployed and the pound has depreciated by more than 90%.
The coronavirus pandemic and the massive explosion in Beirut port last August caused 216 deaths, including 6 children, and injured more than 6,000 people, including about 1,000 children, making the situation worse.
“Unfortunately, Lebanon is in a state of free fall and is quickly falling to the bottom,” Mo Kuo said at a press conference. “This is a children’s crisis, and it may make almost every child in the country very vulnerable and in need of help.”
New data released by UNICEF shows that living conditions have deteriorated drastically in the past six months, and more than half of families had at least one child skipping meals in September. This compares to about 37% in April.
The agency added that more than 30% of surveyed households reported cutting education costs, up from 26% in April.
UNICEF stated that almost 34% of children in need of primary care do not receive primary care, up from 28% in April.
The report is based on UNICEF’s child-focused assessment of the same family in April and October.
“The alarming scale of this crisis must be a wake-up call. Urgent action is needed to ensure that no children go hungry, get sick or have to work instead of receiving education,” Mo Kuo said.
According to UNICEF, 40% of households have to sell household items due to “surging inflation” and increasing poverty, which is higher than 33%. Seven out of ten people had to buy food on credit or borrow money to buy food, compared with six in ten in April.
UNICEF said the situation worsened this month after the government began to reduce subsidies for certain types of drugs, including high blood pressure and cholesterol.
“The government needs to act quickly to protect the future of children,” Mo Kuo said. She said that this requires the implementation of major social protection measures to ensure that every child has access to quality education, and to strengthen primary health care and child protection services.