By Dr. Olfat Mahmoud, director of Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organization (PWHO) in Lebanon

As a community based organisation working in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon since 1993, Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organisation (PWHO) is working hard to support families who are today experiencing hardship greater even than was seen during the days of the 1975 – 1990 civil war.

The economic crisis that began in Lebanon in late 2019, and was exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic and the 4 August 2020 Beirut blast, has led to over half the country’s population living in poverty. Even those who had enjoyed a good, comfortable standard of living now struggle with soaring prices. So for many the residents of the camps, who were already living in poverty, the basic essentials, including food, are now unaffordable.

The currency devaluation has rendered salaries almost worthless. Due to restrictions on the Palestinians right to work, many people in the camps depend on casual labour to support their families, much of which has dried up due to COVID 19 lockdowns and the economic situation. As massive queues form at petrol stations, taxi drivers and others who are dependent on transport are unable to work. Hospitals are struggling due to the shortage of medicines and fuel, and many cases of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart problems are going untreated. 8,218 deaths from Covid 19 by 15 September while the population is 6,831,971in 2021. Children coming back to school after the summer holiday will be studying in classrooms with electricity shortages. As if all this isn’t bad enough, Unicef has warned that the country’s water supply system is on the brink of collapse.

PWHO is providing what support it can to alleviate the situation for the families most in need. While some families receive support from relatives overseas, many do not have access to such help. PWHO appreciates MECA’s contribution to its education projects in Shatila camp, and distribution of food and other essentials to families. This helps to ease the situation for those most desperately in need.

Lebanon facing a deeply uncertain future, with no sign of a solution to the political crisis or an end to the economic woes. The consequences of the dire situation today will be seen for years to come, as children now face malnutrition, anemia and other related illnesses, which will affect their development and future prospects for work and education.

And as people get ever more desperate, there are fears of renewed conflict in a country already well experienced with war.

 

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