Lebanon: country in crisis

View through the front windscreen of a car drivign through Beirut

If you want to fill up your car in Lebanon today you’re in for a long wait. It is just one of the everyday tasks that is increasingly difficult as the country’s economic crisis deepens, as our mission partners report.


Please join us in prayer for the people of Lebanon, many of whom are suffering immensely in an economic crisis the like of which is rarely seen. Inevitably, the poorest are hardest hit, as CMS mission partners in the country show in these perspectives on everyday life.

Nabil Shehadi, Alpha Levant coordinator:

The situation in Lebanon continues to deteriorate catastrophically. The local currency is devalued by 90 per cent, people’s savings have been wiped out, and prices have increased fivefold. Electricity cuts are sometimes up to 22 hours per day, and local backup generators cannot cope, hence total power cuts of up to six hours per day. There is a lack petrol for cars and people have to queue up to three hours to partially fill-up with petrol. Hospitals are refusing outpatients or routine tests. Pharmacies are on strike because of lack of government subsidy for medicines. Basic medicines and even baby food are missing.

The current care-taker government resigned in August last year. The formation of a government of non-political technocrats, which is the only way out of the financial crisis, is blocked by corrupt political leaders of all parties who continue to haggle over their share of power. The situation is complicated by regional and global rivalries. Last week, the American and the French and ambassadors to Lebanon went to Saudi Arabia to try to work out a deal for Lebanon! Sunni countries, as well as the west, are shunning Lebanon because it is seen as under Iranian control via Hezbollah. Russia and China are muscling to claim their share of influence in the Middle East. In the meantime, the country spirals further into chaos and the vast majority of people are destitute, depressed and desperate.

Colin Gibson, national director A Rocha:

Sitting in a queue in the early morning sunshine hoping the petrol station will open is today’s first task.  Searching for medicines from pharmacy to pharmacy – for simple paracetamol to life saving drugs – is another time-consuming necessity for some. Just two examples from life in Lebanon today, which according to the World Bank is going through one of the world’s top 10 worst economic crises since the mid-19th century. The shortage of electricity is not only affecting the internet but the water supply, as pumps cannot operate. Annual inflation is now somewhere between 200 and 400 per cent and likely to get worse as the country has run out of money and the subsidies on staple items such as flour, fuel and utilities are ending or likely to end soon.

All of which is grim, and the poor, including many refugees, are most certainly suffering immensely. On the other hand, most shops are still well stocked and the items in short supply are the exception. Also, for anyone with access to hard currency – a not insignificant minority – the impact of inflation is more than off-set by devaluation of the lira. 

Overall, everyone is having to adjust to change – always a painful process. Many people here have become used to a high standard of living which has been artificially sustained for decades and is now crumbling around them. Churches and NGOs are at the forefront of providing support for those most in need, but this is only a sticking plaster solution when major surgery is required. With politicians deadlocked over forming a new government, the talk now is that the situation may not be resolved until the elections scheduled for May 2022, so things may get worse before they get better.     

But the Lebanese are resilient people (though they would rather they didn’t have to be!) and take comfort in small victories in the face of adversity. Even I now feel uplifted, if very hot and sticky, as despite a two hour wait and the fact they sometimes only dispense 10-15 litres, I managed to get a full tank of petrol.

Published 14 July 2021
Region
Europe, Middle East and North Africa

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