Lebanon’s crisis stretches families’ coping ability to breaking point
BEIRUT, June 20, 2023 – Families in Lebanon are barely able to meet their most basic needs despite cutting down drastically on expenses according to a new survey by UNICEF. A growing number of families are having to resort to sending their children – some as young as six years old - to work in a desperate effort to survive the socio-economic crisis engulfing the country.
The results of the survey paint a dramatic picture of the situation as the crisis continues to escalate for a fourth consecutive year, with devastating consequences for children.
“The compounding crises facing the children of Lebanon are creating an unbearable situation – breaking their spirit, damaging their mental health and threatening to wipe out their hope for a better future,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF’s Representative in Lebanon.
The report, based on UNICEF’s latest rapid assessment of children’s lives, shows that almost 9 in 10 households do not have enough money to buy essentials, forcing them to resort to extreme measures to cope with the crisis.
The report shows that:
- Fifteen per cent of households stopped their children’s education, up from 10 per cent a year ago, and 52 per cent reduced spending on education, compared to 38 per cent a year ago.
- Three-quarters of households have reduced spending on health treatment, as compared to 6 in 10 last year.
- Two in five households have been forced to sell family possessions, up from one in five last year.
- More than 1 in 10 families have been forced to send children out to work as a way of coping, with this figure rising to more than 1 in 4 families amongst Syrian children.
Despite these desperate coping measures, many families cannot afford the quantity and variety of food they require, and additionally cannot afford the expenses involved in getting health treatment.
Significantly, the crisis is also driving up period poverty, with just over half of respondents saying women and girls in the household do not have enough female hygiene items, such as sanitary pads, and almost all of them saying they are now too expensive.
Many caregivers admit the bleak situation causes them to suffer persistent stress, resulting in feelings of anger towards their children. Six in 10 felt they wanted to shout at their children and 2 in 10 felt they wanted to hit them in the previous two weeks to when the survey was taken.
The rising tensions, coupled with the deprivations, are taking a severe toll on children’s mental health. Almost 7 in 10 caregivers said their children seemed anxious, nervous or worried, and almost half said their children were very sad or feeling depressed every week.
Gaps in the national social protection system and limited access to essential services, particularly education and health make it even more difficult for families to cope with the crisis.
UNICEF is urging the Government to swiftly implement the recently produced National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS), which includes plans to provide social grants for those who need them most, including vulnerable families raising children. UNICEF also urges the Government to invest in education through reforms and national policies to ensure that all children – but particularly the most vulnerable children have access to inclusive and quality education.
“Increasing investment in essential services for children – critically education, health and social protection will help mitigate the impact of the crisis, ensure the well-being and survival of future generations and contribute to economic recovery,” said Beigbeder.
Note to editors:
UNICEF CFRAs are carried out twice a year in Lebanon. The latest was conducted by telephone in May 2023 among some 2090 households with at least one child (1083 Lebanese; 518 Syrian refugees; 489 Palestinian refugees)
UNICEF has expanded its programme to respond to the compounding crises, including:
- Supporting the Government of Lebanon to launch the country’s first-ever National Disability Allowance, together with the ILO and civil society groups.
- Supporting the procurement of 97 tons of essential medications and medical supplies for primary healthcare centres.
- Supporting improved access to vaccination services to reach 240,000 children through mobile vaccination units.
- Equipping 150 primary healthcare centres with solar equipment and power supply, to reduce costs and ensure immunization and essential services are not interrupted.
- Providing micronutrient supplements to 58,000 children under age 5, screening 400,000 children and subsidizing treatment to 3,200 acutely malnourished children.
- Supporting more than 400,000 vulnerable children with access to formal education by covering their school enrolment fees.
- Training 25,000 teachers in learning recovery, addressing learning losses caused by the closure of schools during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
- Providing Cash for Education assistance for more than 73,500 children in formal education including children with disabilities.
- Rehabilitating 120 public schools and launching site work for the construction of four new school complexes.
- Supporting water services with supplies, consumables and repairs, making it possible to sustain the equivalent of one to two hours a day of clean drinking water supply to 3.4 million people.
- Rehabilitating 11 wastewater treatment plants across Lebanon.
- Reaching more than 63,300 children and caregivers with child protection, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services, and almost 25,700 women and girls with gender-based violence (GBV) services.