Human Rights Watch warns of starvation in Lebanon due to Corona

 Human Rights Watch warned on Wednesday of "starvation" threatening the population of Lebanon due to the spread of the new Corona virus and the restrictions taken to combat it, in a country that is suffering mainly from an economic collapse, calling on the government to take urgent measures to provide Aid to the hardest hit.

"Millions of Lebanese residents are at risk of hunger because of the epidemic-related closures, unless the government urgently develops a robust and coordinated plan to provide aid," the organization said in a statement.

"The Covid-19 epidemic (...) exacerbated a devastating economic crisis that had already existed," she added.

In addition to the 4.5 million Lebanese, the authorities estimate that there are 1.5 million Syrian refugees and 174 thousand Palestinian refugees.

Lebanon has so far officially registered 575 injuries, including 19 deaths.

Since mid-March, the government has taken a series of measures, starting with a total closure that excludes ovens and foodstuff stores, as well as requiring residents to stay in their homes and closing all sea, air and land points, to a total curfew at night.

These measures have major repercussions for the daily workers, many of whom are refugees, as well as workers in the liberal professions, who suffer mainly from the economic collapse. And 45 percent of the country's population is now living in poverty.

"The targeted shutdown has slowed the spread of the Coruna virus, exacerbating poverty and the prevailing economic hardship in Lebanon before the virus arrived," said Lina Zemet, senior researcher on poverty and inequality at Human Rights Watch.

"Many have lost their income, and more than half of the population may be unable to purchase their food and basic necessities if the government does not intervene," she added.

To address the repercussions of the Covid-19 epidemic, the government formed a "Social Emergency Committee". On Wednesday, the Minister of Social Affairs announced a "social solidarity program" as part of this plan, and its aim is "to help the families most in need and affected by the global epidemic."

The government agreed at the end of last month to "provide a cash contribution of 400,000 Lebanese pounds to the needy families."

However, Human Rights Watch considered that the government "did not provide sufficient details" about the number of beneficiaries and how the plan was implemented.

Local media reported last month that a taxi driver had burned his car when security forces asked him not to roam, in compliance with the restrictions. A social media image of a person holding a sign in which he offers to sell his kidney was also circulated.

International organizations warn of a catastrophe that may affect the crowded and poor Palestinian refugee camps in the event of the arrival of the new Corona virus, especially that most of them suffer from difficult living conditions, and the majority of them work in limited areas such as agriculture and construction.

"Syrian refugees did not have many economic options even before the Corona Virus crisis," said Ai Majzoub, Lebanon's researcher for the organization, noting that their situation "depends mainly on international assistance for refugee programs."

Lebanon has been experiencing a rapid economic downturn for months, amid severe liquidity shortages, a rise in prices and a devaluation of the lira against the dollar in the parallel market.

The government, which is on the verge of finalizing an economic plan and describing it as a "rescue," called on Monday the international community to support Lebanon financially to help it overcome its financial and economic crises, which were exacerbated by the epidemic.

And the World Bank is discussing, according to what a spokeswoman told AFP at the end of last month, with the government to provide technical and financial support to Lebanon to help it cope with the economic and financial repercussions on the poor.


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