More than three million people need food assistance in Lebanon

Financial collapse and political instability continue to impact food security, WFO warns

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More than three million people need food assistance in Lebanon, a country with the second highest food inflation globally, the World Food Programme warned on Monday.

Lebanon, which has a population of around 5.5 million, is grappling with one of the worst economic crises in modern history.

The WFP said the financial collapse and the country's ongoing political instability “continues to have a detrimental impact on the food security” of households.

According to a study carried out in May, around 25 per cent of households are experiencing acute food insecurity.

The WFP describes acute food insecurity as “when a person's inability to consume adequate food puts their lives or livelihoods in immediate danger”.

In June 2023, Lebanon reported the second highest food price inflation globally, with a rate of 280 per cent.

The country has no president, a caretaker prime minister with limited powers and a deeply fragmented cabinet. It failed to appoint a formal successor to central bank governor Riad Salameh whose tenure ended last month, leaving the position to an acting head.

The WFP said the inability to appoint a successor, which has been blamed on political disagreements, “raises uncertainties over an already fragile system and further delays the implementation of an economic recovery plan”.

Parliament is paralysed and unable to agree on the country's next president amid an unprecedented governance vacuum. With the cabinet in a caretaker status, it has extremely limited powers compared to normal.

Lebanon is also home to more than one million Syrian refugees who fled the civil war in their country. Lebanese politicians say this has added pressure to a severely strained nation.

The economic crisis, blamed on decades of mismanagement and corruption by the Lebanese elite, has led to the national currency losing about 98 per cent of its value against the US dollar, while living standards are plummeting. Inflation is rampant but salaries have failed to keep pace.

Many families have been plunged into poverty and have had to significantly adjust their diets, for instance by reducing meals and cutting out meat. A near-absence of state electricity has meant an increased risk of food deterioration, with those who can afford it forced to turn to expensive diesel-guzzling private generators to fill the gap.

And despite Lebanon reaching a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a $3 billion bailout last year, almost none of the reforms requested to secure the money have been introduced.

Updated: August 22, 2023, 10:42 AM