Lebanese struggle to put food on the table as inflation tops 200%

by Tala Ramadan | @TalaRamadan | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 1 August 2022 08:00 GMT

Crowded street in Beirut, full of people begging on the road, on July 17, 2022 in Hamra, Beirut. Thomson Reuters Foundation / Tala Ramadan.

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The inflation diaries: As Lebanon's crisis heads into a fourth year, many are struggling to afford proper meals due to triple-digit inflation

By Tala Ramadan

BEIRUT, Aug 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Only a few years ago, Lebanese graphic designer Mona Amsha used to be able to afford regular weekend excursions, trips to the cinema and restaurant meals for herself and her two children.

But now, with inflation running at more than 200% in the third year of a devastating economic crisis, she struggles even to put enough food on the table.

Read more: The Inflation Diaries series

"I can barely give them a proper meal," Amsha, 35,told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview from her home in Beirut.

"We even had to cut down on our small dinners; it's not just breakfast and lunch."

The financial crisis that began in 2019 has pushed about 80% of Lebanon's 6.7 million people into poverty. Prices have skyrocketed due to a steep currency devaluation in the import-dependent country.

More than half of families had at least one child who had skipped a meal by October 2021, the U.N. children's fund UNICEF said in November.

Rising global food and energy costs driven by the Ukraine war and fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated shortages and driven inflation even higher this year.

Some supermarkets ran out of bread in July as the war disrupted wheat shipments from Ukraine, which previously supplied about 60% of Lebanon's imports of the grain. 

Sunflower oil has become nearly 10 times more expensive than it was three years ago, supermarket owners reported.

That means Amsha can rarely afford even a simple snack of french fries for her children.

"It's the snack they love the most, and ironically, it is what used to be the most affordable, especially as a big bag will fill them up," she said.

'HATE TO SAY NO'

Beirut mini-market owner Moein Nahas sees every day the struggles that households face to make ends meet.

"I always have to tell them 'no' when they ask me if I can charge them less, or if they can pay me later."

Nahas said he was forced first to cut the salaries of the two staff in his shop, and then fire one as he could no longer afford to pay them both.

He no longer allows his children, aged nine and 14, to keep him company in the shop as he cannot afford the snacks they ask for.

"If the prices keep on increasing, I will have to close the grocery permanently, and find myself another job," he said.

"Maybe if I sell the space that would help me with extra money - but I doubt anyone is willing to buy."

Explore our interactive map below for more stories about the human impact of the cost of living crisis in our three-part series on The Inflation Diaries

More from Part Three of The Inflation Diaries series:

In France, families turn to charity food boxes as inflation bites

Mexico's informal workers hit hard as high prices fuel poverty

Soaring energy and rent prices leave Australians with little left

Venezuelans exit hyperinflation but see few reasons to celebrate

In Germany, many struggle as Russian gas squeeze drives up prices

(Reporting by Tala Ramadan @talaramadan; Editing by Sonia Elks. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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