Lebanon, the alternative for families: send their children to school or eat every day

Lebanon, the alternative for families: send their children to school or eat every day

ROME - According to a new UNICEF report, families in Lebanon are no longer able to meet even the most basic needs, despite the general cut in spending. The situation is so serious that many parents are forced to send their six-year-old children to work in an attempt to survive the economic and social decline that has been sinking the country for four years now. "The crisis affecting Lebanon's children is breaking their spirits, damaging their mental health and threatening any hope for a better future," said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon.

The results of the survey. 15 percent of families can no longer send their children to school, up from 10 percent a year ago. 52 percent have reduced spending on education, up from 38 percent last year. Three-quarters of households have cut spending on health care, up from six out of ten households in 2022. Two out of five households were forced to sell family assets, up from one in five last year. More than one in 10 parents have been forced to send their children to work to cope with the situation, and these numbers grow if the survey is extended to Syrian refugees, where there are one in four families. But the cuts don't stop at education: most of the country's families can no longer afford a varied diet full of all the essential nutrients for a healthy and complete diet.

The crisis of women. Poverty has become so acute that just over half of the women and girls UNICEF surveyed cannot afford personal hygiene items such as sanitary pads, which have become too expensive. Many parents, pressed by economic difficulties, are suffering from stress to the point that many have admitted to feeling anger towards their children, because they are unable to raise them as they would like. Six out of ten – reads the report – yelled at the children in the two weeks before the interviews and two out of ten even felt the desire to hit them.

The children. The growing tensions, combined with deprivation, are putting a strain on the mental health of the little ones. Nearly 7 out of 10 parents said their children are anxious, nervous or worried and almost half admitted that their children experience moments of great sadness and depression. Gaps in the national social protection system and limited access to essential services, especially education and healthcare, make it even more difficult for people in Lebanon, especially those with young children, to deal with the crisis.

The witness. "With the onset of the economic crisis three years ago, my husband left me with our triplets, who are now 13," Samar, 45, told Care International. “With the fall of the lira, my husband, who worked day labor in construction, was called less and less. He was depressed and could no longer afford to support us. I think that's why he left". Many things have changed for Samar and his children since 2019. "Today it's my boys who help me make ends meet. Every afternoon, after school, they go to get plastic and scrap metal that they sell by the kilo. I go into debt to buy oil and bread. My children haven't eaten chicken and meat for months."

One of the worst crises in the world. The World Bank has ranked Lebanon as one of the ten worst global economic crises since the 19th century. The price of bread, which is the staple food, is revised upwards several times a month, that of fuel twice a day. “The war in Ukraine and soaring fuel prices have also made matters worse, especially as the Lebanese have lived with almost no electricity for the past two years and have had to rely on private generators for lighting. The increase in the price of fuel is also a problem for hospitals and motorists in a country where there is no public transport network”, explains Pierre Valiquette, of Care International.

Government intervention. The government has adopted a national social protection plan under which people most in need should receive state aid, but it has not yet been implemented. “Increased investment in essential services for children – especially education, health and social protection – could help mitigate the impact of the crisis, ensure the well-being and survival of future generations, and aid recovery economy,” concludes Beigbeder of UNICEF.

Alessandra Mastronardi, Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF Italy on a mission to Türkiye

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