The Lebanese are grappling with a series of shortages, from gasoline to medicine, as the interim government discusses the removal of subsidies.
Lebanon’s drug importers have said they are running out of hundreds of essential drugs and have warned of further shortages if the cash-strapped central bank does not release the funds.
The Lebanese grapple with a series of shortages, from gasoline to drugs, as the interim government discusses removing subsidies it can no longer afford amid what the World Bank sees as one of the world’s worst financial crises since the 1850s.
The local currency lost more than 90 percent of its value on the black market, but the central bank provided importers with dollars at the much more favorable official rate to cover much of the cost of imported drugs.
“Imports of drugs have almost completely stopped over the past month,” the Association of Pharmaceutical Importers said in a statement on Sunday.
“The stocks of hundreds of drugs from importing companies to treat chronic and incurable diseases are exhausted,” he warned. “And hundreds more will run out until July if we can’t resume imports as soon as possible.”
The union said the central bank failed to release the dollars pledged to pay overseas suppliers, who owe more than $ 600 million in dues accumulated since December, and importers cannot secure new lines of credit.
Union leader Karim Gebara told AFP news agency that some drugs to treat heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis were already out of stock.
If nothing is done “the situation will be catastrophic by the end of July”, depriving “hundreds of thousands of patients” of their drugs, he warned.
On Thursday, President Michel Aoun said he, outgoing ministers and the head of the central bank had agreed to “continue to subsidize drugs and medical supplies” selected by the health ministry based on priorities .
The government resigned after a deadly explosion at a port on August 4 last year, but a deeply divided political class has since failed to agree on a new cabinet to lift the country out of the crisis.