No relief in sight for troubled Lebanese - GulfToday

No relief in sight for troubled Lebanese


The photo has been used for illustrative purpose.

Lebanon is in a real sordid mess, and its inhabitants are suffering no end. Something as basic as bread is woefully in short supply, so is petrol, and the currency’s value has nosedived to unimaginable depths.

Beirut, once the Paris of the Middle East, was not only a financial hub but also a magnet for arts and culture in the region. Its waterfront cafes and Mediterranean lifestyle were extremely popular not just with the locals but foreigners too.

Now, a nation noted for parties and the highlife has suddenly lost its mojo. Good living has become a thing of the past. Thanks to years of corruption, it has become a shadow of its former self. Until recently, there was no government for months, and there is no guarantee the new regime will last long.

If there is one category of people who strongly feels for this awful plight of the Lebanese, it is the country’s expatriates based abroad, particularly in the UAE. The country is home to tens of thousands of Lebanese nationals.

They know they are far better placed than their compatriots back home, facing no shortages in a land with plenty of food and creature comforts. They are enjoying the comfort and affluence in this country, far away from the hardship and misery of their kith and kin back home. Wracked by guilt, they are scrambling to ship essential goods and medicine to family and friends in their crisis-stricken home country.

“How can I sit in the comfort of my home in air-conditioning and a full fridge knowing that my people, my friends and family, are struggling back home?” asked one lady.

“Oh, the guilt is very, very real,” said the 33-year-old resident of Dubai.”It’s guilt, shame and nostalgia.”

The currency has hit drastically low levels, sparking inflation and chipping away at the purchasing power of a population who cannot even withdraw their own money due to crimping banking controls.

Lebanon is running out of everything, from fuel and gas to medicine and bread. Over three-quarters of its population are on the breadline. There are long queues for bread and petrol, long periods of blackouts and virtually empty chemists’ shops.

Social media platforms are filled with posts by Lebanese appealing for contacts abroad to send basic goods such as baby formula, diapers, painkillers and coffee.

Trust in the Lebanese government has sunk to abysmal levels. “It is unsurprising that local and grassroots initiatives have sprung up to fill this gap while bypassing the government that they view as corrupt, inefficient and incompetent,” according to a researcher.

With no faith in the Lebanese authorities, expats have taken it upon themselves to transport aid. One Lebanese woman and a number of her friends fill their bags with over-the-counter medication and food items every time they travel home.

The Dubai-based airline Emirates is allowing an extra 10 kilos (22 pounds) of baggage for passengers to Beirut from certain destinations until the end of this month, according to AFP.

For another Lebanese resident, a trip to Lebanon opened her eyes to the unfolding disaster. “I was in Lebanon, and I had money, and I had a car with fuel, and I went around from pharmacy to pharmacy unable to find medicine for my mother’s ear infection,” she said.

Another Lebanese woman took, for her second trip home in less than two months, only a few personal items while the rest was supplies for family and friends.

This time, the 26-year-old was taking a couple of battery-operated fans, painkillers, skin creams, and cold and flu medication.

The new Prime Minister has called upon the Lebanese nationals to make sacrifices. But what is there to give?

Related articles