A man and a woman walk out of a bakery with bags of subsidised flatbread in Beirut, Lebanon. AFP
In a country which once boasted the nickname "Switzerland of the Middle East" for its thriving banking sector before financial crisis hit in 2019, the chronic shortage of the staple of the Lebanese diet has been hard to take.
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Lebanon defaulted on its national debt in 2020 and its currency has lost around 90 percent of its black market value.
The World Bank has branded the financial crisis one of the worst since the 19th century while the United Nations now considers four out five Lebanese to be living under the poverty line.
A man walks out of a bakery clutching a bag of subsidised flatbread in Beirut, Lebanon on Friday. AFP
Faced with demands from international creditors for painful reforms in return for the release of new aid, the embattled government has been forced to end subsidies on most essential goods -- although not so far on wheat.
The price of subsidised bread has gone up, although by less than if there were no subsidy, but bakeries have started rationing the staple.
A bag of flat Arabic pitta-like bread now officially sells for 13,000 Lebanese pounds (43 US cents). On the black market it costs more than 30,000.
"Last week I went without bread for three days because I cannot afford to pay 30,000," said Mansour, 48.
Many find the acute shortage of flatbread unbearable. AFP
For Mansour and most Lebanese, buying bread means standing for hours in long queues outside bakeries and sometimes, when their turn comes, the bakeries have run out of bread.
"Today I queued for three hours, yesterday two-and-a-half. What next?" Mansour said on Friday outside a Beirut bakery.
"I have to feed my family. What else can I do?" asked Mansour, who earns the equivalent of $50 a month working in a pastry shop.
Lebanon, home to one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East, has been gripped by an unprecedented economic downturn since 2019, with more than 80 percent of the population now living in poverty.
The World Bank ranks the crisis as among the most severe globally since the mid-19th century, devastating a country once seen as a wealthy and liberal outpost in the Middle East before civil war broke out from 1975 to 1990.
Lebanon's economic crisis, which erupted in 2019, has propelled more than three quarters of the population into poverty and the local currency has plummeted by over 90%.
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