The Crisis For Children In Lebanon

On November 23rd, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a report detailing the scope of the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon and its impact on children. The findings presented in the document describe a deteriorating situation—their education, health, and protection have all been increasingly endangered over the past few years. A majority of families in the country had at least one child who needed to skip a meal, while nearly 34% of children were not able to receive necessary primary health care. Additionally, over 45% of Lebanese households had insufficient drinking water, the UNICEF report stated. Furthermore, economic inequality has put Lebanese children in significant danger; child marriage, trafficking and sexual exploitation are all increased threats as families struggle to provide food and housing. The degradation of conditions for children in the nation has drawn greater attention with an entire generation at risk.

“[I] have never seen the situation of children worsen so quickly, and so visibly, as I have during my visits last month. The needs are massive,” said Yukie Mokuo, the UNICEF Representative in Lebanon. “[M]ore and more children are going hungry. Parents are resorting to desperate measures to put food on the table and are often not able to . . . it breaks my heart to witness the shadow of poverty affect so many children across the country, so fast.” This dangerous situation creates an environment where many children are facing an uncertain future as the economy and country collapse—a lack of access to schools, healthcare, and clean water threatens their ability to develop and thrive.

What must occur in Lebanon is consistent and sufficient structural change. Many of the issues lie in governmental policies and the inflexibility of state leaders; for the country to survive the turmoil it faces, there must be a shift in the attitudes and directions of officials. Federal repression and abuses towards the population will not solve the crisis that is swallowing the nation. Instead, there needs to be a focus on resolving the currency collapse and establishing effective social programs. Both of these actions combined, which can be accomplished through proper management and new policies, will help to relieve extreme poverty and raise the nation from devastation. Only foundational alterations can create a lasting transformation—failure to implement reforms will put the youth of Lebanon in greater peril, causing millions of children to suffer.

The account of this intense crisis can be found in multiple facets of the country’s history. A collapse of the Lebanese pound in 2019 led to the failure of the entire economy, pushing the UN poverty rate estimate from 42% to 82% in 2021. Compounded with the dire economic situation are concerns over governmental corruption, the brutal oppression of social movements, COVID-19, and political instability. Further exasperating the crisis is the Beirut explosion of 2020 that scarred Lebanon and left over 25% of children struggling to get access to education after 163 schools were damaged in the event, the International Rescue Committee affirms. Basic necessities are too expensive to afford, and utilities like electricity are subject to extreme shortages, making the circumstances in the nation dire.

International actors must work to help the troubled state by helping to maintain necessary domestic infrastructures and keep emergency aid available. While it might take years of assistance until Lebanon is able to function independently, the International Crisis Group asserts, the populace cannot be allowed to suffer due to the actions of the government. It is necessary to note, however, that the current manner in which the Lebanese state functions risks perpetuating anger and dissent towards those in power. Such instability exacerbates the risks to health and security that citizens, and especially children, face. The future of the country remains imperiled as the multileveled humanitarian crisis continues its descent. Providing support for both the youth and impoverished in Lebanon must be a central focus, in order to secure the country from instability and societal collapse.