Over half of Lebanon’s population could be short of food by the end of 2020 due to the country’s worsening economic crisis and the recent destruction of much of the port of Beirut, the United Nations warned on Sunday.
“More than half of the country’s population is at risk of failing to access their basic food needs by the year’s end,” the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) warned in a new policy brief entitled ‘Is Food Security in Lebanon under Threat’.
ESCWA Executive Secretary Rola Dashti called on the country’s government to prioritize the rebuilding of grain silos destroyed during the Aug. 4 bomb blast that devastated much of Beirut Port.
The port is the main point of entry for goods into Lebanon, which depends heavily on food imports.
“Immediate measures should be taken to prevent a food crisis, such as intensifying food price monitoring, ensuring ceiling shelf price and encouraging direct sales from local producers to consumers,” Ms. Dashti stressed.
ESCWA noted that inflation is expected to top 50% in 2020, as against 2.9% in 2019, with average food prices 141% higher than in July 2019.
It also stressed that confinement measures meant to contain the novel Coronavirus pandemic had aggravated an economic crisis that had already been under way, causing poverty and unemployment rates to spike.
“The international community should prioritize and expand food security programmes targeting refugees and host communities to address growing levels of vulnerability and diffuse potential social tensions,” the ESCWA Executive Secretary urged.