Layers of crisis: how the depreciation of the Lebanese pound continues to impact the everyday lives of Lebanese civilians.

Layers of crisis: how the depreciation of the Lebanese pound continues to impact the everyday lives of Lebanese civilians.
Aftermath: Port of Beirut explosion, August 2020.


A Lebanese crisis is not one that civilians aren’t accustomed to. Almost five decades on from the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, the population of what was once known as the “Paris of the Middle East” continue their suffering as the economic situation plummets en lieu with the Lebanese Pound. Despite the unhealed scars caused by recent devastation in the country, Lebanese civilians continue life.

The pound has been in free fall since the commencement of the financial meltdown in 2019 following decades of corruption, mismanagement, and neglect by the country’s leading political and financial figures. In 2021, the United Nations estimated that nearly half of the Lebanese population has been pushed into poverty since the beginning of the economic crisis. This is in addition to the millions that are already in poverty seeking refuge from the crises in neighbouring Syria and occupied Palestine. Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees per capita worldwide, with the government estimating that there are 1.5 million Syrian refugees in the country, with 90% living in poverty, and 13,715 of other nationalities.


Obtaining income:


Thousands have suffered during the political and economic crisis. With many having lost their jobs, hundreds of thousands of people are in desperate financial positions. The unemployment rate in the nation has skyrocketed, as shown in the ILO’s findings of 2018-2019, increasing from 11.4% to 39.6% in January 2022. 


For those that were able to retain employment, receiving due wages has become another layer of hardship. Many salaries continue to be deposited into bank accounts, of which are tied to the central bank’s exchange platform, Sayrafa. The platform had been introduced as a means of providing relief from previous controls, centralise the fluctuating exchange rate, and move away from the black market values of the Lebanese Pound (LLP) to the United States Dollar (USD). However, despite the official exchange rate being fixed at 15,000 LLP to the US Dollar, the currency continues to be traded at 100,000 LLP to the dollar in line with the black market rate. This resulted in the instant devaluation of one’s income through the Lebanese banks.


Access to utilities:


Shortages of utilities like electricity and water have also been commonplace since the outbreak of the Civil War. We spoke to a resident last month who told us that:


“It’s been over 30 years since we’ve had access to reliable electricity and water”.


Despite a lack of reliable utilities, the sporadic nature of provision of electricity and water is deeply frustrating for residents, with blackouts occurring on a daily basis.


“Sometimes the electricity comes on at 2pm, other times it can be one o’clock in the morning, and when it comes on is when we can bathe and do our laundry”.


Households and businesses are forced to rely on privately-owned generators for electricity, which can cost anywhere from 50 USD – 70 USD per month, making a significant dent in already suffering household incomes. Further difficulties associated with the widespread privatisation of electricity is a lack of price controls. These fluctuate per provider and are often subject to hikes at the whim of private companies.


“It is so difficult but something I have been forced to accustom to. When you’re not in Lebanon, you can often forget what a luxury having reliable electricity is.”


Similarly, water supply in Lebanon is massively restricted, despite the vast water sources across the nation. The infrastructure of the nation has suffered deeply from myriad military conflicts. Much of it was destroyed during the civil war and further, during the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon (1985-2000) infrastructure was deeply neglected. Authorities looked to rebuild after the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon conflict, but a lack of resources means that civilians continue to suffer. 


Food for survival:


With the rising costs of living, and lack of access to a reliable currency, thousands of Lebanese households across multiple income levels are under severe threat of food insecurity. According to a 2021/22 survey conducted by Human Rights Watch, in more than 25% households, an adult had to skip a meal as they didn’t have enough money/resources to get food. A more recent survey conducted by UNICEF revealed that as many as 70% of households now borrow money to purchase food, or do so on credit, and that in June 2022, 23% of children had gone to bed hungry.


“We used to be able to buy everything we needed and more. Now, I need to choose what I buy carefully, and be conscious of it’s shelf life and how long it can last us.”



The healthcare system through crises:


The healthcare system has deteriorated as one would expect in such poor socio-economic conditions. A  reduction in ability to import medical equipment and medication and the subsequent increase in medical bills has left many without access to appropriate medical care. By October 2019, Lebanon had lost around 40% of its doctors, and 30% of its nurses as many looked to escape the ensuing economic disaster. As was the case for many of the worlds poorest nations, the outbreak of COVID-19 in February 2020 exacerbated all of these problems. The government declared a State of Emergency just one month later. Further, the port explosion in August of 2020 left thousands injured adding greater burden to a shattered healthcare system. The lasting impact of these crises has left half of Beirut’s healthcare systems out of service. 


The Lebanese population are still living amidst the ongoing healthcare crisis, with access to affordable healthcare being limited and costly, and shortages of medication leaving thousands untreated.


“My mother suffers from severe dementia, and we do not have access to her medication in Lebanon… to get this I have to request it from friends abroad, or turn to the overpriced black market.”


“Each month is a struggle. With my limited salary, I have to put money aside each month to make sure I can pay for my mother’s treatment if a time comes where she needs to go to hospital. She was admitted last year for breaking her hip, if I hadn’t done this, we wouldn’t have been able to afford her treatment.”


The ongoing multi-faceted crises needs to urgently be addressed by the Lebanese government. The state need to start the work within and address the longstanding corruption, incompetence and violence which sits within their institutions. This should provide a more sound foundation to which international aid can enter the nation. The reformation of national institutions, that must be grounded in unrestricted public service and access (a tough ask in difficult conditions, though surely a pertinent one) should re-install faith in systems of governance. In the short-run, the state must divert much of their resources to aid ailing public services, such as utilities, medical aid, and food provisions. Providing a base for civilians to then build on, the state must then focus on the dire financial situation. Ensuring fundamental human rights should be the priority


(Interview details have been kept anonymous for the purpose of safety)




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