Despite the worsening multicrisis that hits Lebanon, everyone strives to stay resilient
The socio-economic turmoil that started with uprising protests against the political situation in Lebanon, continued with a pandemic that crippled the world followed by the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port that caused a country highly dependent on imports to sink in a financial meltdown in which the value of its currency decreased drastically. Moreover, there is a lack of electrical power provided by the government, and prices of fuel are unaffordable for most people to be able to use private generators also affecting the transportation services across the Lebanese territory. The dire situation impacted on food products both directly and indirectly, thus causing a huge spike in prices while the official minimum wage remains the same, leading to an unprecedent crisis in terms of food security and nutrition nationwide.
The most vulnerable population, especially children, endure food insecurity, one of its causes being a very poor awareness of correct nutritional patterns. Basic knowledge of best practices and facts regarding nutrition and caregiving to young children seem to be missing amongst all social groups, from local citizens to migrant workers and refugees.
“The war left us no option and now our house is completely destroyed”, Jalila worries. She is a refugee who moved from Der El Zour in Syria to Beirut in 2010 with her husband and three children. She gave birth to four more kids in Lebanon, so she is now taking care of seven children. One of her daughters is unable to walk and the three eldest children—8, 9, 10 years old—are working cleaning houses and removing trash from buildings.
Jalila with her youngest child inside their small apartment with almost no furniture and commodities in Karantina, Beirut.
The economic crisis in Lebanon, further exacerbated by the Syrian conflict and the closure of trade routes and other structural deficits, has reached rock bottom, and the banking and financial system is on the verge of collapse. “The World Bank has recently noted that Lebanon is facing its worst downfall. As a result, unemployment and extreme poverty are on the rise, making it more difficult for local, migrants and refugee populations—Lebanon hosts more than 1 million refugees from the Syrian conflict and Palestinians— to meet their basic needs.”
In this regard, Action Against Hunger, present in Lebanon since 2006, aims to address the needs resulted from this predicament and promote viable and sustainable nutrition and food security practices through a multi-response project. Participatory awareness sessions on nutrition among caregivers of children under 5 and/or pregnant or lactating women in addition to a multipurpose cash assistance supports vulnerable households on different food and non-food related necessities according to each specific case.
Nutrition awareness sessions for the improvement of families’ nutritional practices
“Before these sessions, I did not know many things I know now. I learnt that I should keep my new-born for 30 minutes on my breast. I used to put my kid for 10 mins, and she used to be all day hungry. I used to give solid food to my children when they were 4 months, but after the sessions, I know that I should wait until they are 6 months. I learnt that if the kid is not eating diverse food, they will have deficiency in vitamins.” The 33-year-old mother explains.
There is an ongoing need for awareness about nutrition to address all the existing misconceptions and their critical consequences on a child’s health and development.
The raising awareness sessions tackled several subjects related to nutrition. Through pre-recorded voice notes, different audio sessions tackling breastfeeding and proper nutrition practices were sent to participants by a nutrition expert through WhatsApp groups by which they can interact and ask any question. It’s been proved as an innovative way to interact with the right holders while applying COVID-19 preventive measures. The sessions tackled breastfeeding and pregnancy during COVID, complementary feeding, healthy diet and malnutrition, maternal nutrition, the use of mid upper-arm circumference tape and the benefits of micro-nutrient powder.
“Yes, I changed a lot of practices after the sessions on personal hygiene, COVID-19 prevention and vaccination, breastfeeding, food consumption... I didn’t know anything about these before. I am not giving my baby formula milk for almost 3 months and a half; I am still breastfeeding her, and I will not give her food until she is 6 months at least.” Jalila affirms.
After the sessions, the participants were delighted to gain knowledge about right and efficient nutritional practices to enhance their children’s health. The crisis may have pressured people to discard certain nutrients and practices that are key for their kids’ development due to high prices of products, so we shared information about healthy approaches that could maintain their children’s health even with the current harsh conditions.
Cash assistance for the support of basic needs
“I’m not able to eat the amount and type of food needed because I must think of my children and my grandsons and granddaughters before myself. When an old lady raises small kids, she does not accept that their mother will not be able to afford something they ask for or need. When they need or want anything, I even go begging in the street just to try to afford it”, Lamis worries.
Lamis in her modest home in which she lives with her daughter and grandchildren with almost no access to nutritious food, water, electricity or healthcare in Basta, Beirut.
She is a 67-year-old Lebanese widow who recently lost her job as a cleaner in a clinic due to her advanced age. Her daughter works all day long for an insufficient salary and Lamis is the only one able to take care of her four children.
“I can’t buy chicken or meat. I usually wake up at 5 to go and buy vegetables, and I took the rotten vegetables for free but now they hide it. I go very far and come back home on foot, holding the vegetables bags, and I start feeling pain in my hands”.
A few tomatoes and bread, some of the basics in the diet of Lami’s family.
Considering the extremely dramatic economic situation and the consequent loss of income as well as an unprecedent increase in the prices of all products or services, many people like Lamis resort to any source of food, trying to overcome hunger with any cheap product that gives a feeling of satiation without taking into consideration their safety or nutritional value.
The multi-purpose cash assistance improves food security of the households by allowing them to access to fresh, nutritious food, allowing vulnerable households to restore a piece of the balance while the economy seems to keep plummeting.
“Thanks to Action Against Hunger for giving us this support, says Lamis. “When I receive the cash, 100% of the money is for food, I go buy milk for the kids and different food items”.
We are supporting the most vulnerable families by ensuring the coverage of some of the most basic needs such as food, infant baby formula, and hygiene items while raising awareness to enhance their daily practices and support them to obtain resilience and maintain dignified living conditions by themselves. However, there are still needs such as rent payment, winter clothing, psychosocial support or education which must be taken into consideration in further aid programmes in order to guarantee a decent life for all citizens residing in Lebanon.
 All names appearing in this article have been changed into an alias to protect the interviewees.
Your donation will reach those who most need it
Become a member
Join the generation that can bring an end to hunger
Donate via SMS
send HAMBRE to:
Full donation to our projects. Valid for Movistar, Vodafone, Orange and Yoigo