Wed, 20 Oct 2021

by Dana Halawi

BEIRUT, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- Sarah Fahs, a 40-year-old lady, moves from one market to another in the southern city of Nabatieh in hope of finding affordable clothes for her four children ahead of the cold winter in Lebanon.

"September comes with heavy expenses, ahead of the fall and school return, which we can barely afford to cover in light of the dire living conditions," Fahs told Xinhua.

Fahs said the monthly salary of her husband, who works at a sweets shop, does not exceed 1.2 million Lebanese pounds (about 77 U.S. dollars) which is not even sufficient to pay the electricity bill.

"How can we manage to cover our other expenses?" she complained.

The woman said she had to sell her gold bracelet, a wedding gift from her husband, to buy some of her children's books, stationery and clothes, in addition to securing some fuel of which the price has soared by more than 300 percent.

For his part, Ahmed Abu Daoud, a man in his 60s, told Xinhua that the cold and stormy winter is at the door while he was not yet able to secure enough firewood and diesel for heating.

Abu Daoud, a salesman at a fruit store, said his salary is less than 1 million Lebanese pounds while he needs 10 million Lebanese pounds to secure 7 barrels of diesel for heating for the long winter.

Lebanon has been suffering from an unprecedented financial crisis amid shortage of U.S. currency reserves, depriving citizens of their banks deposits, driving up the cost of imports and leading to a hike in food prices by over 400 percent.

The crisis was exacerbated by the Beirut port explosions and the COVID-19 pandemic which caused a wave of business failures and a massive layoff, with the unemployment rate estimated at around 41 percent by the country's Labor Ministry.

Moreover, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia said that the poverty rate in Lebanon is up to 74 percent while the UN Children's Fund reported that 77 percent of households do not have enough money to buy food.

Amal Hamad, a housewife and mother of six children, told Xinhua that the increasing food prices forced her to limit the food she prepares every year ahead of the winter to bulgur, rice and potatoes since she cannot afford meat.

"I have to cut down my winter food list which now costs 15 million Lebanese pounds, tenfold previous price," Hamad said.

In an attempt to alleviate the repercussions of the financial collapse, Lebanese government distributed earlier this month cash cards to over 500,000 vulnerable families, by which each eligible household member is entitled to a monthly sum of 25 dollars or 126 dollars per family.

Lebanese economist Layal Mansour told Xinhua that the cash cards enable the impoverished families to secure their minimal food needs.

But Mansour insisted that the help is only temporary since it won't activate the economy by creating jobs and providing long-term solutions.

Fahs told Xinhua that the cash cards may provide limited support given the drastic price hikes.

As for Hamad, she said that any kind of support is much needed nowadays to be able to secure daily food.

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