By Xavier Sartre & Linda Bordoni
Father Michel Abboud, President of Caritas Lebanon, describes the situation in the country as critical and getting worse by the day.
In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Xavier Sartre, he points to a deepening economic crisis caused by galloping inflation and speaks of the despair of a people who, he says, “have the revolution in their hearts” as they struggle to feed their families looking to “a future of darkness.”
Caritas Lebanon and its partners are providing food, clothes and medicines to more and more people in need throughout the country with its Primary Health Care Centres, Mobile Medical Units, Community Centers, Shelters and Humanitarian Centres.
Fr Abboud describes the situation as increasingly critical: “For example, last week, when we started to distribute our medical centre hygiene kits, we received about 7,000 people” requesting the kits - a sure indication, he says, that they are in dire need.
The spiralling crisis, he explains, is caused by a currency devaluation that sees the Lebanese pound having lost a third of its value in the last week, to stand at a tenth of what it was worth in late 2019, when the country’s economic and financial crisis erupted.
The situation in the nation has gone from bad to worse after a devastating explosion in Beirut’s port in August 2020 that devastated whole districts of the capital and triggered a political crisis that has left Lebanon with a fragile caretaker government and a free-falling economy.
“At first, just imagine, a person’s salary is 1,000 dollars monthly. The following month the same person’s salary became 100 dollars and that is because of the exchange crisis of the Lebanese pound before the dollar,” he says.
Everything in Lebanon, he adds, could be sold in Lebanese currency, but it is effectively priced according to the imported price in US dollars.
No hope on the horizon
We are in total confusion, the President of Caritas Lebanon says, because “the future is in darkness” and we don’t know what to do.
The general desperation is such that protesters burned tyres and blocked roads in Beirut this week, as the Lebanese currency plunged past a new milestone.
Meanwhile, Fr Abboud says, Caritas Lebanon is helping the people “in food, in nutrition and medical aid.”
But he expresses his deep concern as the sheer number of families in need increases every day.
Now, he says, “Caritas is helping about 40,000 families, and we have launched a campaign for help” to be able “to continue to help our people.”
A “stolen” country
The Caritas leader concludes on a bitter note, pointing out, “Our country is not poor: our country has been stolen by the politicians.”
The people, he says, are always angry and “we have the revolution inside every heart in Lebanon.”
During his return to the Vatican after an Apostolic Visit to Iraq from 5 to 8 March, Pope Francis, who has repeatedly asked for prayers for Lebanon, revealed he intends to visit the suffering nation.