With livelihoods in tatters and hopes almost shattered, the Lebanese are “hanging on by a thread,” the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator said on Thursday, announcing the extension of the Emergency Response Plan (ERP) to address the rapidly deteriorating situation.

“I have listened to stories of shock and of loss. Young people whose dream is simply to go to school are now chasing informal jobs to provide for their families,” Najat Rochdi told journalists at a press briefing.

“Others desperately seek to leave and start a new life elsewhere, leaving the country almost void of its most rich and promising human capital”.

Socio-economic meltdown

According to World Bank estimates, real GDP is projected to contract by a further 6.5 per cent this year, on the back of a 10.5 per cent and 21.4 per cent decline, in 2021 and 2020 respectively.

The currency has devalued sharply, while inflation has reached a devastating 890 per cent.

The country’s socio-economic meltdown has been further exacerbated by the Ukrainian war, which is reflected in Lebanon’s wheat reserves depletion and soaring fuel prices, threatening food security.

Scrambling for work

As unemployment increases, the minimum monthly wage is less than $25.

The Labour Force Survey, issued in January by the International Labour Organization (ILO), shows that almost one-third of Lebanon’s labour force is unemployed, with unemployment tremendously increasing from 11.4 per cent in 2018-2019 to 29.6 per cent this year. A Labour Force Survey, issued in January by the International Labour Organization (ILO), shows that almost a third of Lebanon’s workforce is unemployed, with unemployment increasing from 11.4 per cent in 2018-2019, to 29.6 per cent this year.

And youth unemployment stands at 47.8 per cent among those aged 15 to 24.

“Joblessness has become the tip of the iceberg, throwing away an entire productive and creative generation that can help build forward a better Lebanon”, said the Humanitarian Coordinator.

‘Mind-blowing numbers’

Global market increases in crude oil prices have been mirrored nationally by cost spikes in gasoline, diesel, and gas – with spill-over effects detrimentally impacting the Lebanese.

“It threatens to tip thousands of families over the edge into food insecurity, malnutrition, and possibly hunger,” she continued, highlighting a recent assessment saying that 2.2 million require support to access food and other basic needs until the end of the year – a 46 per cent increase on last year.

Moreover, 90 per cent of families are consuming cheaper food, 60 per cent are limiting portion size, and 41 per cent reducing the number of meals.

“These are mind-blowing numbers that raise the alarm about food insecurity in the country,” Ms Rochdi said.

Urgent appeal

However, with 2.2 million Lebanese, 86,200 migrants, 207,800 Palestine refugees and 1.5 million Syrian refugees requiring emergency aid, Ms Rochdi again appealed to the Government to “find a sustainable solution…and take decisive actions in adopting the necessary reforms to address this problem”.

Meanwhile, the UN has extended the ERP until the end of 2022, which requires an additional $163 million to fulfil the added humanitarian needs of the mounting number of vulnerable people.

“Despite the scale and magnitude of the hardships, I personally see this crisis as an opportunity…to unlock the potential that this country has in the path of development and recovery,” said the Humanitarian Coordinator.

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