Protests against the state’s corrupt policies have escalated in Lebanon. In January, we also reported on the economic crisis that gradually plunges the country into chaos (Article of January, 15th, 2020). Last week, again serious riots occured. Bank branches, in particular, were set on fire throughout the entire country, as they are regarded as a symbol of years of mismanagement. The reason for the riots are frustration over the corrupt political leaders who have run Lebanon into the ground as well as an economic crisis of unknown proportions. In addition to the economic problems that are already prevalent, the Corona crisis is hitting the country now as well.
As is so often the case, the pandemic is hitting the poorest of the poor particularly hard. Day laborers earn barely anything anymore. The prices for food have risen enormously within a very short period of time, thus they are hardly affordable for people who are currently unable to find work.
The Lebanese Lira is in free fall and has lost half of its value within one month. Because Lebanon has to import almost all its goods, the daily pressure to survive is highly increasing. In the past few days and weeks in particular, the fall in value has accelerated considerably. Unemployment is rising, and with it the fear and dissatisfaction of the local people, which is often directed against refugees.
The lockdown imposed by the government also affects our team. The security situation is tense. It has become extremely difficult to obtain medicines and protection equipment. To avoid large crowds and panic, we have now set up a temporary outpatient clinic. Instead of taking our mobile clinic to larger places, where hundreds of people have gathered around our team each time, we now make appointments with the patients, who then come to us for free treatment. Each patient is given a 30-minute window to avoid direct contact between patients. Hygienic work is a matter of course here. In addition to the free medication, each patient currently receives a small care package with rice, oil and sugar.
Especially refugees, who otherwise would not have access to medical help or money for treatment, benefit greatly from our work in Lebanon. But here too, as in every one of our projects, the safety of our staff is paramount. We are therefore keeping a critical eye on developments in Lebanon. Our work there is currently more necessary than ever before, so we hope to be able to carry it out over a long period of time and in safety.