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Economic Difficulties and Social Tensions at an All Time High One Year After the Beirut Blast

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One year after the explosion at the Port of Beirut that destroyed much of the capital city, Lebanon is on the brink of collapse both socially and economically.

Jeffrey Shannon, Mercy Corps Director of Programs in Lebanon, says:

“One year after the explosion at the Port of Beirut, more than half of the population in Lebanon is living in poverty. The economic crisis, which was described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world since the mid-nineteenth century, has wiped out the once thriving middle class.

“The Lebanese Lira has lost 90% of its value. That means that savings have evaporated and salaries are worth a tiny fraction of what they once were. Small businesses can’t keep pace with the frequent fluctuations of the Lira and many are being forced to close, creating a ripple effect throughout communities who rely on these businesses for goods, services, and sources of income. A staggering 77% of Lebanese and 99% of Syrian refugee families do not have enough to eat.

“Young people we work with describe feeling frustrated, even depressed or hopeless. Many are jumping at any opportunity to leave the country, and parents are encouraging them to go. While nobody can blame them, this “brain drain” will undoubtedly impact Lebanon’s future.

“International assistance is needed now more than ever to maintain an economic foundation upon which we can build once we come out of these crises. Without it, I worry that the darkest days may still be ahead.”

Mercy Corps has been working in Lebanon since 1993. In this critical time, the team is focused on increasing economic opportunities for youth and in particular, women, as well as building trust and strengthening relations between communities and with local government. Over the last year we supported over 550 small businesses among which 328 were directly affected by the explosion in the Port of Beirut. In total, we reached over 150,000 people through all of our programs across the country in the past year. At six months after the blast, several small business owners shared their experiences (video).