The economic and social crises in Lebanon seem to be spiraling out of control. In the last few months, the local currency accelerated its free fall, while shortages and rationing of fuel, electricity, and medicine are driving people to even more despair, anger, and hopelessness.
Rapid inflation means that supplying meals for a month for a family of five now costs more than five times Lebanon’s minimum wage. The prices of certain food products have soared — the cost of sunflower oil rose 1,100 percent since summer 2019 and that of rice went up by 545 percent — putting them out of reach for many families. UNICEF estimated that 30 percent of children in Lebanon now go to bed on an empty stomach.
A recent report from the World Bank stated that the economic and financial crisis in Lebanon was likely to rank in the top 10, possibly top 3, most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century.
The crisis is affecting everyone, including already vulnerable Syrian refugees and migrant workers in Lebanon, but also more and more Lebanese families, with more than half of the Lebanese population now trapped in poverty. Since the start of 2020, extreme poverty has tripled and moderate poverty nearly doubled, according to UNICEF.
In the face of colossal challenges, continuous policy inaction threatens already dire socio-economic conditions and a fragile social peace with no clear turning point in the horizon. Tensions are on a sharp and worrying rise.
The assistance you help us provide to the most vulnerable families in the region is more needed than ever, not only because the families can barely survive without it, but because it breaks barriers and prejudices between people from different nationalities, ethnicities, and religions. It brings healing and forgiveness between people who were once enemies.
Last winter, when a refugee camp in North Lebanon was torched by local Lebanese youth, one of our church partners rushed to help with everything they were able to. Pastor Nehad explains:
“Because we seek to be peacemakers, we decided to involve the local authorities and to provide our assistance in collaboration with the municipality. We want to encourage them to reach out to the refugees around them and build bridges between Lebanese and Syrians, especially at a time when tensions are on the rise.”
We know and believe that our help comes from the Lord. It is the same God moving someone to give to his church in the West, moving that church to give to a local NGO or foundation, moving that NGO or foundation to give to us at MERATH, and moving us to assist vulnerable families through our church partners on the ground. It is the same God moving each person in this beautiful chain, from the first one to the final one, and back!
Without a doubt, the help these families get comes straight from the Lord, and many recognize it well. To them, it is so much more than material assistance. It is a reminder that God has not abandoned them, that He cares about them, and will take care of them.
“I always ask myself why Roula and the church were on my way and are helping me like this. I thank God because he placed them in my path. I was walking in Beirut after the blast crying and thinking out loud. I was wrestling with God, I was worrying all the time. There was no life anymore. Roula and the church came and gave us life. They are such a blessing to us.”
 World Bank, June 1, 2021, Lebanon Sinking into One of the Most Severe Global Crises Episodes, amidst Deliberate Inaction