UN urges Lebanon to implement reforms as extreme poverty rises | United Nations News


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Amid the economic collapse, Lebanon’s medical crisis is a “death sentence” and famine a “growing reality”, according to the UN.

Beirut, Lebanon – The United Nations has sounded the alarm bells on Lebanon’s spiraling economic collapse, calling on the country’s leaders to urgently implement reforms as extreme poverty worsens and famine becomes a threat “Growing reality” for thousands of people.

“The situation remains a living nightmare for ordinary people, causing untold suffering and distress to the most vulnerable,” Najat Rochdi, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, told a press conference on Friday.

The UN estimates that 78 percent of Lebanese live below the poverty line – some three million people – with 36 percent of the population living in extreme poverty. Nearly a quarter of the population was unable to meet their “food needs” at the end of last year, according to the UN.

“Famine has become a growing reality for thousands of people,” Rochdi said.

“Today, we estimate that more than a million Lebanese are in need of emergency assistance to cover their basic needs, including food.”

The international community has repeatedly urged Lebanon to reform its economy, including ending wasteful spending and corruption, and restructuring its inefficient energy sector. They also requested a forensic audit of the central bank.

“We have never seen these growing needs among the Lebanese population before,” World Food Program spokeswoman Rasha Abu Dargham told Al Jazeera. The organization is now providing food aid to one in four people in the country, with demand for food aid at an all-time high.

“We are now the biggest [UN] agency in Lebanon – unfortunately.

The Lebanese pound has lost 90 percent of its value against the dollar amid Lebanon’s economic collapse over the past two years.

Purchasing power has dwindled as millions of people are robbed of their savings in stricken banks across the country.

A fuel crisis has crippled much of Lebanon in recent months, causing large-scale blackouts and crippling hospitals.

Life-saving drugs have disappeared from drugstore shelves, including cancer treatments. Families had to dig deeper into their pockets to buy them at inflated prices on the black market if they could afford it.

Rochdi said the medical crisis was a “death sentence”.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, whose newly formed government is the country’s first in 13 months, has vowed to implement swift reforms, resume talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout program, and lead the way to economic recovery.

But Rochdi said Lebanon’s fate lies in the political will to make its economy viable again, and humanitarian interventions are not the solution.

“Humanitarian action is meant to be short-term, temporary and unsustainable by nature,” she said. “It is not intended to solve the root causes and drivers of a crisis.”

According to the United Nations Emergency Response Plan for Lebanon for next year, $ 383 million will be needed to target 1.1 million people in need. Its programs cover a multitude of issues, including food security, education, health care, sanitation and child protection.

“The resilient Lebanese people are now tired of being resilient, thorny problems that life throws at them,” Rochdi said. “They just want to live with dignity. “

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