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Everything in Lebanon is running out: fuel, electricity, water, bread, internet, medicine, cooking gas, medical personnel, hope.
At a pharmacy in Paris last week, I displayed the Notes app on my phone which contained a list of medications and photos of prescriptions for people I had never met before. The pharmacist shook his head in disbelief. “For Lebanon? he asked, before I had a chance to explain my strange request.
The warlords turned political elite who have ruled Lebanon since the end of the civil war have bogged down the country in corruption and chronic mismanagement, rotting all sectors of the interior. Now, as the country crumbles, they refuse to form a government that will implement the anti-corruption reforms needed to unlock an IMF bailout, as well as help from the UK, France and the United States. United States.
A hit on the rope in terms of lifting bank secrecy laws and uncovering the depths of patronage networks could unravel 30 years of accountability on the individuals who designed the system designed to fail and siphoned off its resources.
More ways to deliver aid – without going through the government – and sanctions against individuals blocking both government formation and the Beirut explosion investigation are needed for there to be any hope. to put pressure on the people who are leading Lebanon into the abyss.
For the majority of Lebanese, it is like living under a siege imposed by the government. Except there is no war, just a political elite bent on protecting their own interests as the country sinks into a humanitarian catastrophe.
The electricity situation has become a matter of life and death. Most hospitals survive on two days of fuel at a time
Over the past year, food prices have risen by more than 550%, while the local currency has lost 90% of its value since the onset of the crisis in late 2019. According to crisis watchers in the country , the cost of a basic food basket for a family is more than five times the national minimum wage.
By some estimates, at least 78 percent of the country now lives below the poverty line. But even if you have kept some means during the crisis, going through the day-to-day life can seem like an impossible task.
How do you get to work when the fuel line is eight hours long and there is no public transport infrastructure? How do you travel across the country visiting endless pharmacies trying to find the medications your family needs? How do you power your standby generator when the state can no longer afford to provide just over an hour of electricity a day?
It’s a game of mental gymnastics – and the work of a government – every day before you can even start working. It can take a whole family to join separate queues of several hours for fuel, water, bread and cooking gas.
So without fuel, there is no electricity.
While just trying to sleep in Beirut in August without air conditioning may seem like hell, the electricity situation has become a matter of life and death. Most hospitals survive on two days of fuel at a time. There are endless warnings that patients on ventilators will die immediately if they run out.
He can easily take a trip to four pharmacies in Lebanon just to find paracetamol, not to mention anything that can save lives. Many cancer patients are urged to obtain their own medications abroad before they can begin treatment, and in a country already in the grip of a serious mental health crisis, psychotropic drugs are incredibly hard to come by.
Businesses of all types are falling like dominoes because they cannot afford to run fuel at black market prices, or even keep the lights on.
Then without electricity, there are water shortages.
Bottled water companies can neither shape the plastic in the bottles nor find the fuel to transport their supplies from the mountains to across the country. Even tap water is expected to be “severely” rationed in some parts of the country, as water pumps cannot operate without electricity.
UNICEF has warned that within days more than four million people – mostly children and vulnerable families – “face the prospect of critical water shortages or of being completely cut off from water supplies. drinking ”, increasing the likelihood of water-borne illnesses and the increase in Covid cases.
The most common phrases you hear in Lebanon today are: “we are living in hell”, “there is nothing left”, “our government is killing us”.
The World Bank has called the Lebanese crisis a “deliberate depression” which ranks among the three most serious crises in the world since the middle of the 19th century.
It has been over a year since Lebanon had a government – let alone anything that looks like the credibility to unlock desperately needed international aid. In the middle of a pool game between the political elite and the international community over who will prevent the country from falling over the precipice, the people are paying an immeasurable – and growing – price.
Abbie Cheeseman is a freelance journalist based in Beirut, Lebanon.
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