The start of Lebanon’s 10-day curfew on Thursday, in the middle of a month-long lockdown, threatens the health and safety of vulnerable children as their families are running out of food and medicines while children miss out on their education, Save the Children warned today.
Especially poorer families, already struggling with hunger due to lower bread subsidies and rising food prices, could not afford to stock up on food before supermarkets closed for the curfew. An estimated 2.2 million children are already at risk of going hungry.
“If I go to the supermarket, I can only purchase what we will eat for tomorrow, but not for the next week or month. It’s impossible to stock up,” said Salim*, a father of two who had to close his barbershop in Beirut due to the lockdown and is now without an income.
“We used to work and save up money for the dark days, we never expected them to turn into dark months. I don’t have any preparations for ten days because my livelihood depends on my day-to-day income. There’s a possibility I won’t be working the entire month, and the next one.”
Over the past year, families in Lebanon have told Save the Children staff that the currency devaluation and an all-out economic collapse is forcing them to eat fewer, less nutritious meals. Save the Children warned that the current lockdown will force families to reduce food portions even further, putting the physical and mental wellbeing of vulnerable children in particular at further risk.
Meanwhile, children are also facing an extended disruption in their education, which has already been profoundly disrupted since the outbreak of the pandemic. With schools closed at least until February to curb COVID-19 infection rates, and possibly longer, hundreds of thousands of school age children are left without an education during the month-long lockdown. Children out of school are at a higher risk of falling victim to abuse.
Many poorer children often have no access to remote learning at all, because their schools do not offer online classes or because they have limited access to internet, electricity, and laptops or devices. As they already struggle with their education, this lockdown threatens to push them out of school forever, Save the Children warned, as children are increasingly pushed to work if they can to support the family income.
Also, parents have told Save the Children that tuitions at private schools have become unaffordable compared to their dwindling income. The lack of access to technology and no space at government schools, might force them to take their children out of school entirely.
“My children study online using my wife’s smart phone. It’s the only device available. Internet data consumption is putting a strain on us since both of my children have online learning,” said Adam*, who has two children at school.
Adding that, like other parents, “I haven’t been able to pay the full tuition so they suspended my daughter’s school account.”
Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children’s Country Director in Lebanon, said, “The impact of this curfew is being felt in every corner of Lebanese society. Behind the closed supermarket doors and the long queues outside bakeries lies a very grim reality; survival has become a daily mission for millions of children and their families.
“Children’s education is also at increased risk during the month-long lockdown. Affordable solutions such as safe messaging applications should continue to be promoted alongside paper textbooks and worksheets to ensure children continue to learn at home during the curfew and lockdown.
“The wellbeing of children is under threat. A disaster can be averted if we take immediate action. This is why we are calling for the government to grant unrestricted access to humanitarian organisations like Save the Children to enable us to provide much-needed and life-saving assistance such as cash and food. Meanwhile, the government needs to implement transparent social protection assistance for vulnerable children to make sure none are left behind during the curfew or the longer lockdown.”
*Names changed to protect the identities of children
Notes to editors:
Save the Children provides multi-purpose cash assistance and food parcels across Lebanese regions. In 2020, the organisation reached over 107,000 people, including 50,000 children through a range of vital services.
For media inquiries contact Angus Smith on 0488 330 882 or firstname.lastname@example.org