The dire situation in Lebanon means the number of children dealing with “crisis” levels of hunger could surge by 14 per cent if rapid action is not taken, Save the Children said.
Already four out of 10 Lebanese and Syrian refugee children are living with “high acute food insecurity,” defined as level three or above in the IPC Acute Food Insecurity index.
Stage three is deemed “crisis,” stage four “emergency” and stage five “catastrophe/famine”. Research in the last quarter of 2022 showed that 37 per cent of Lebanon’s population faced level three or above food insecurity on the IPC classification.
But that will rise to 42 per cent without action in the first quarter of 2023, while the number of people living in “emergency” food insecurity will rise by nearly 50,000 people to 354,000.
“The crisis in Lebanon is increasingly a children’s crisis. The first five years of a child’s life are critical, and we fear that without enough nutritious food to eat, an increasing number of children will become malnourished, or even face starvation,” said Save the Children’s country director Jennifer Moorehead.
“Families are telling us they’re forced to skip meals or reduce the number of nutritious meals for their children. More needs to be done to prevent Lebanon from becoming the next tragic hunger emergency.”
The situation is in part due to a crippling financial crisis that has plunged much of the population into poverty and led to widespread shortages in medicines, clean water and electricity.
Lebanon is host to more than one million Syrian refugees fleeing the 12-year conflict in neighbouring Syria.
The local currency has also plummeted in value to the US dollar on the parallel market by more than 95 per cent and salaries have not kept up with the rampant inflation.
According to Save the Children, Lebanon has the sixth worst food crisis for the share of population that is insecure, after South Sudan, Yemen, Haiti, Afghanistan and Central African Republic.