‘Thousands of children going hungry’ a year after Beirut blast

Port explosion in Lebanon last year compounded an ongoing economic crisis made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

Children search for valuables in the rubbish next to a market in Beirut, Lebanon [File: Hassan Ammar/AP Photo]

Hundreds of thousands of children continue to suffer from hunger in Lebanon after last year’s devastating Beirut Port blast and the ongoing economic crisis in the country, a report said.

Since the August 4 explosion, the result of hundreds of tonnes of poorly stored and highly explosive ammonium nitrate igniting, the gap in finances families need for basic survival has increased for almost all wealth groups, Save the Children found in a new analysis.

The poorest families fell about 5.5 million Lebanese pounds ($3,652) short of the 6.1 million pounds ($4,050) needed monthly to afford basic goods, the report added.

The explosion – which killed more than 200 people, injured some 6,500 and flattened parts of Beirut – compounded an ongoing economic crisis in the country that has seen its currency lose more than 90 percent of its value in less than two years.

The situation has been further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The cash-strapped government has faced shortages of fuel, medicine and basic goods, which have resulted in surging prices. Most Lebanese families face hours of power cuts daily, while millions are on the brink of losing access to safe water, according to the UN.

“Hundreds of thousands of children are going to bed hungry, often without having eaten a single meal that day,” Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children’s country director in Lebanon said in a statement.

“Families can’t afford the electricity to run a fridge or hot water, or the medicines they need to treat illness. The longer this situation continues, the more likely it is that children will slide into malnutrition, which ultimately could lead to death,” she said.

The analysis found that many families in Lebanon have resorted to cutting back on food, education and medical expenses, selling furniture, or taking on crippling debt.

The aid group said about 47 percent of Lebanon’s population cannot afford essential goods like lentils, cooking oil, diapers, sanitary pads and fuel.

The dire situation is particularly pronounced for the estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, with 90 percent unable to purchase basic goods, according to the analysis.

Families of victims of the Beirut blast continue to call for government accountability amid the stalled investigation.

Lebanese legislators have dragged their feet on lifting immunity for several ex-ministers wanted for questioning.

Critics have also decried moves by Parliament to create a special judicial body to try caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and four ex-ministers over the explosion, calling it an attempt to shield those involved in negligently storing the dangerous ammonium nitrate from accountability.

Source: Al Jazeera