Lebanon’s economic crisis: ‘No food, no gas, no hope’

each day joe tatul does the rounds delivering meals to those who are faltering amid the punishing realities of life in lebanon [Music] this woman’s husband lost his job after the beirut port blast and now they live hand to mouths a husband works in a firm on a salary of one million two hundred thousand that used to be worth about eight hundred dollars but today amounts to just 50 or 60 dollars so she can’t afford to rent an apartment she just pays for the utilities the electricity is about 600 000 a month and that leaves her 600 000 to live on she has a daughter of five.

who she sent to her sister’s place and she manages her place for the moment we head across to another family but a similar story professional people now destitute because of disaster and economic crisis here a woman who can’t afford to rent anymore has moved back in with her mother [Music] many salaries have been crushed by rampant inflation originally established to help the elderly this charity delivers food and medicine and the numbers needing help have soared in the past two years actually we had about 100 people and today we’re close to 600 per day but of course some people leave some stay 1 500 per day.

yes but financially we have a limit that wouldn’t allow us to go on for more than three months like that on the corniche syrian refugee children sell flowers but there are few takers in so many ways it feels like people are just about getting by the un says 74 of lebanon’s population is now living in poverty those businesses that steam on like tusk coffee know that the banks only allow small daily withdrawals and charge foreign currencies at old rates which due to rampant inflation are punitive as any foreign credit card holder soon finds out so once you

get into the subject of money you get into a real looking glass world here these five coffees if you change them at the official rate if you put your credit card down for example you’d be charged 67 over 50 pounds for five coffees but if you’ve changed your money on the black market it’ll cost you about a dollar a coffee less than a pound a time and it’s those kind of differences between what you can get for your money officially and what you can get on the black market that create opportunities for some people but keep many others trapped unable to access their money many affluent neighborhoods are emptying out lena nacoos lives in ashrafia

so tell me about the neighbours they they have mostly gone is that right most of them are gone for instance if you go through this building here you know the rooftop used to be a lot of people one neighborhood and one neighborhood they left in this building also you can see they didn’t even repair the blast having lost her husband five years ago and her job as an architect just before covid lena is losing the battle to stay since the blast everything worse and every day is worse than the day before i was told my apartment was gone this one after i lost my job i couldn’t find the new job money is still stuck in the bank so everything

everything is pushing us out and people then that don’t go out that means they don’t have the possibility it was supporting her daughter maria’s pre-medical studies that kept lena here but now maria is telling her mother to leave beirut it’s quite a tough decision because i wanted to stay here to stay with my family to to feel like i’m i’m in my home it’s my home here i don’t want to live i want to study here surrounded by my family some of my friends

but the rest of my friends are all now abroad they’re all outside of lebanon so in order to finance her daughter’s studies lena is looking for care work in france look you’ve come to a difficult decision now very difficult because we’ve never been my daughter and i we never we have only each other in two worlds we only have each other what does it look like from now do you do you have a date in mind you have a flight book do you yes have a job that you’re going to try and get i don’t have a job i have a flight booked eight of november the cataclysmic

port explosion of august 2020 was a body blow to a country already marred in crisis there’s been a determination though to rebuild and to hang on despite the vicissitudes of fate a luxury development near the port offered retail units rent free for a year to traders and artists rana salman makes art and is a branding consultant she’s determined to stay and knows that leaving carries shame my god that’s that’s the that word is yeah it kind of hurts but of course like any business i’ve opened and closed business quite a few times in beirut and it’s it’s you

somewhere you kind of start doubting yourself and you feel like you’re a failure but look at i’m up again on my feet and in every situation that’s negative you have to you know i always believe in the british you know the show must go on so the show was gone what am i supposed to lock up and go back to my flat rana’s rent holiday will be over soon and she intends to sell her services to overseas businesses but so many of her friends and fellow artists her milieu can’t do that absolutely the media has shrunk i have to admit i live a very simple uh but yeah

i mean the the the beerus still celebrates as people go out and hang out but yes the media has shrunk i have to admit um but i i mean i just have myself my product my my i live probably in my own bubble but i’ve got to constantly look abroad i’m not really interacting with too many people here unfortunately because a lot of them have left this is a place where connections are made and abandoned as the circumstances demand in this case cables from generators carry private electricity supplies for many because the national grid is so unreliable and when a local generator operator goes bust someone else steps in the new wires go up there are so many different power struggles going on here now that some fear open conflict could soon be added to the country’s

list of woes i cannot imagine what also we have problems no health no food no gas no electricity no hope no hope because you know what happened in aina remaining i can feel it i’m used to war i can feel it it’s war the reality of beirut’s present mess shows itself at nightfall wandering around here at night is really quite eerie there’s no street lighting of course because of the power situation but very few of the flats are occupied it’s a wealthy part of the city and one has to presume that the professionals and other well-off people who live here have

gone now there’s shame involved in doing that and there’s no statistics the government probably wouldn’t want to share them even if they had them but you really get the feeling to a considerable extent of a society that’s gone into hibernation [Music] so beirut is while away the knights and wonder about their own staying power whether to live more cheaply in the countryside or seek work abroad but the resilience of this city remains remarkable

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