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World: In a confined and crisis-ridden Lebanon, survival has become a daily mission

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  Dans un Liban confiné et en crise, survivre est devenu une mission quotidienne © Provided by Le Point

M Despite strict confinement and an unprecedented jump in Covid-19 contamination, Omar Karhani opens his greengrocer store every day in Tripoli. Because in an Lebanon in crisis, poverty and hunger are more to be feared than the virus.

Lebanon has imposed a total curfew until February 8 and a closure of businesses, only authorized to deliver to homes. But with the level of poverty exacerbated for more than a year by the economic collapse, staying at home is synonymous with the danger of famine for many.

"I am not afraid of the coronavirus, but rather of finding myself in need," laments Mr. Karhani, 38 years old and father of six children.

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For him, confinement represents the coup de grace.

Living in Tripoli, a northern metropolis which is one of the poorest Lebanese cities, this father started out on his own after having been a florist for a long time.

"To eat daily, we need 70,000 Lebanese pounds (6.7 euros on the black market). But with my current job, I can barely cover half of it", he laments.

Like him, many Lebanese brave the prohibitions on a daily basis, despite the heavy fines imposed by the police.

Tuesday, for the second consecutive evening, dozens of demonstrators mobilized in the center of Tripoli to denounce the confinement and its economic repercussions, noted a correspondent of AFP .

Some threw Molotov cocktails, others tried to storm the main administrative building in the city. Elsewhere in the country, several roads were blocked by protesters.

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The day before, clashes in Tripoli had pitted security forces and young demonstrators, leaving around thirty injured.

Social "explosion"

Engaged in a committee that helps underprivileged households in Tripoli, Mohamad Bayrouti says he fears a social "explosion".

"What happened last night is only the prelude to greater movements," said this sixty-year-old to AFP.

"Most of those who do not respect the closures are day laborers. The day they do not work, they do not eat," he explains.

This category of workers represent about half of the working population, according to the Ministry of Labor .

In a Lebanon hit for over a year by restrictions on bank withdrawals, a depreciation of its currency, massive layoffs and wage cuts, the social fallout from confinement is disastrous.

More than half of the population today lives below the poverty line and almost a quarter in extreme poverty, according to UN .

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The NGO Save the Children has sounded the alarm.

"Behind the closed doors of supermarkets and the long queues of bakeries hides a sad reality: survival has become a daily mission", laments Jennifer Moorehead, director of the NGO in Lebanon.

"No financial aid"

For two weeks, Ismail Assaad has not left his home in Akkar (north), one of the poorest regions of the country.

This 43-year-old carpenter, father of seven children, cannot go to any building site.

"Before confinement, we worked at least a little, but there no longer at all," he laments. "How do those who do not have a fixed salary?"

Hundreds of kilometers away, in the village of Broumana which overlooks Beirut, Georges, 47, works for himself. But for weeks this electrician has not been in demand.

"I am not against a total closure, but how can a State take such a decision without providing financial assistance", wonders this father of two children.

The Lebanese authorities claim to distribute 400,000 books per month (43 euros) to 230,000 disadvantaged households. An amount deemed insufficient in a country plagued by triple-digit inflation. And far from covering all the needs, while, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs, 75% of the Lebanese population would now need help.

Nor did the restrictions spare the hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Palestinian refugees who were already living in extreme poverty.

Abdel Aziz is a house painter. He lives in Beirut with his wife and three children.

"I have not touched a penny since the start of confinement," he says.

In 2014, this 30-year-old fled Raqa in Syria, a city that fell into the hands of the Islamic State (IS) group. But his hopes for a more lenient future have faded.

"There we escaped death. But obviously we are going to starve here", he blurted out.

26/01/2021 18:06:21 - Tripoli (Lebanon) (AFP) - © 2021 AFP

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