Pharmacy shelves lay bare, gas station queues stretch on and on, and essential supplies become harder and harder to find by the day. Lebanon is facing an economic and financial crisis with daily power outages that can last most of the day and there is seemingly no end in sight for this nightmare catastrophe. The people of Lebanon have somehow survived in this situation for more than 20 months.
“The World Bank has described what is happening in Lebanon as possibly one of the top three economic collapses seen since the mid 19th Century,” says UNICEF’s representative for Lebanon Yukie Mokuo.
More than three-quarters of Lebanese households either can’t get hold of enough food or don’t have enough money to buy adequate supplies of food according to UNICEF. “Children’s health, education and their very futures are affected as prices are skyrocketing and unemployment continues to increase,” Mokuo continued.
“I don’t know how long we’ll be able to survive the situation,” says Najwa, a Lebanese single mother of two living in Beirut said. “For months, we kept waiting and hoping things would get better but all we’re witnessing is a free fall into the abyss,”
The current crisis began in 2019 when mass street protests prompted a collapse in Lebanon’s currency but what is happening in the country today has roots going back decades. Lebanon has been the victim of corruption of mismanagement for years.
No surprise then, that fortunate Lebanese who live outside the country try to bring as much back with them as physically possible when they come home to visit their friends and family.
The only thing stopping them from cramming their cases with life-saving medicine and trustworthy baby formula which won’t make a child sick is the prohibitive cost of excess luggage fees.
On Wednesday, Emirates Airline announced it wanted to help the Lebanese people by increasing free check luggage weight limits for travel to Beirut for a short period.
“In a move to support its Lebanese customers, communities and diaspora around the world, Emirates will be offering extra baggage for travel to Beirut from around its network, starting this week until 30 September 2021,” the airline said.
The extra weight limit varies from an additional 10kg to an extra bag weighing as much as 23kg on top of usual luggage allowances.
Last year, Emirates set up what it called a “humanitarian airbridge” with Lebanon dedicating entire flights to deliver much-needed emergency relief supplies. Over 160 tonnes of medical supplies, food, PPE, and other essential humanitarian items were delivered on several missions during that period, although sadly this is mere drop in the ocean compared to what Lebanon needs.
France is leading efforts to get even more aid into Lebanon and international governments recently pledged $370 million in emergency aid to the country but aid organisations say more is urgently needed.
“The government of Lebanon and the international community need to start treating the situation in Lebanon for what it is—a full-fledged humanitarian crisis driven by an economy in total collapse,” commented Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children’s country director in Lebanon.
“This crisis is entirely man-made, so it can also be man-unmade. If that doesn’t happen, children can die of hunger any day.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.