Connect with us

hunger

‘Worse than the war’: Hunger grows in Lebanon along with anger

Beirut, Lebanon – “We have never seen days this dark,” says Souzan, a 50-year-old mother of two. Speaking by phone from her small home in Beirut’s southern suburbs, nearly a month into the country’s lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19, Souzan summed up the dire conditions confronting her and thousands of Lebanese. “It’s worse…

‘Worse than the war’: Hunger grows in Lebanon along with anger

Beirut, Lebanon – “We have never seen days this dark,” says Souzan, a 50-year-old mother of two.
Speaking by phone from her small home in Beirut’s southern suburbs, nearly a month into the country’s lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19, Souzan summed up the dire conditions confronting her and thousands of Lebanese.
“It’s worse than the war,” she told Al Jazeera.
The past six months have brought hardships unseen in Lebanon even during the bitter days of its 15-year civil conflict that ended in 1990. Decades of corruption and financial mismanagement by warlords-turned-politicians and a cabal of business elites combined with the war next door in Syria to plunge Lebanon’s economy into its worst crisis in living memory.
Already ravaged livelihoods are now buckling under the economic disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing people like Souzan – who asked her surname not be used – to seek aid for the first time in their lives. 
A fraction of those in need qualify for government assistance. But a promised lifeline from the state has yet to materialize for tens of thousands of people, and cries for help in the country are growing more desperate.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned earlier this month that unless a robust aid programme is established, millions of Lebanese may go hungry. This in a country of more than six million, of which some 1.5 million are Syrian and Palestinian refugees.
But programmes take time, and the government is running out of it. People are hungry. Now. And they are taking their anger to the streets.
We have never seen days this dark
Souzan, 50-year-old mother of two

Slow burn ignites into full-blown crisis
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that Lebanon’s economy will contract by a staggering 12 percent this year – by far the most severe downturn in the Middle East and the third-deepest recession forecast for the world, behind Venezuela and Chad.
Lebanon’s financial meltdown burned slowly for a decade, only to ignite into an inferno last year as the Lebanese pound went into freefall, making a mockery of the currency’s 23-year peg that officially values it at 1,500 Lebanese pounds to $1.
On the parallel market – which more accurately reflects the true value, the Lebanese pound is worth roughly half that much.
As the economy went into freefall, Lebanon witnessed an unprecedented anti-establishment uprising in October last year where hundreds of thousands called for accountability over corruption, economic reform and the downfall of civil war-era politicians.
Lebanon’s fiscal challenges are manifold. The country is weighed down by the third-highest debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio in the world – a burden for which it has little to show. And Lebanon’s creditworthiness is in tatters, having defaulted on a $1.2bn Eurobond payment last month – the first sovereign debt default in the country’s history. 
The government is now talking over its financial rescue plan with the IMF. The blueprint calls for at least $10bn in foreign aid which is looking less likely as prospective donor countries manage their own economic survival amid the pandemic. 
Since last fall, thousands of people have lost jobs or had their salaries slashed in half – and what remains of those salaries is now only worth half as much. Banks have stopped giving out US dollars due to a chronic shortage of greenbacks. Withdrawal limits are in place even on local currency.
Into this maelstrom came COVID-19. The government has responded to the pandemic with a month-old nationwide lockdown and an overnight curfew – measures designed to contain the virus, but are dealing a deathblow to fragile livelihoods. 
‘Booby-trapped’ aid
Three weeks ago, Lebanon’s newly installed government pledged to give 187,500 families in need $130 each to help them weather the crisis – enough to pay an average rent for one or two months.
None of that aid has been disbursed yet. The government blames politics.
About 150,000 of families eligible for the cash payment were supposed to have their names registered with the National Poverty Targeting Program, a World-Bank-affiliated initiative to help Lebanon’s most poor. But Prime Minister Hassan Diab said on Thursday the database of recipients had been “booby-trapped” in order to serve political and electoral goals – suggesting that families had been selected based on their political party affiliation and loyalty, rather than actual needs.
As a result, some 100,000 families who landed in the database would not be receiving cash payments, said Diab. 
Diverting state funds to buy political loyalty has long been the norm in Lebanon, and the country regularly ranks among the most corrupt countries in the world. 
Former Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumjian confirmed to Al Jazeera that many names were chosen by political parties.
The government says aid will now be dispersed ‘in the next few days’ to allow time for the Lebanese Army, one of the country’s only respected institutions, to audit the names in the database.
when an old woman or man calls you and cries because they don’t have food for their kids, you will give them the flesh off your bones
Mahmoud Kataya, anti-corruption activist and community aid organiser

Defying lockdown 
While the government struggles to give meagre aid to only a fraction of those in need, the numbers falling into poverty grow by the day.
Social Affairs Minister Ramzi Moucharafieh estimated earlier this week that some 75 percent of the population is in need of assistance.
But with none forthcoming from the state for the majority, people are turning to begging, or relying on the goodwill of groups organising donations.
Mahmoud Kataya, a 40-year-old activist with anti-corruption NGO the Corruption Observatory, has been managing aid deliveries to families in need in Beirut, along with activists he met during the protests.
While he says they had initial success in gathering donations to support hundreds of families, he warned that resources are running dry, and those passing out aid are now paying out of their own nearly empty pockets.
“The problem is that, when an old woman or man calls you and cries because they don’t have food for their kids, you will give them the flesh off your bones,” he said. “But how long can we go on with these campaigns? How long can we live when he have lost half our salary and the bank has confiscated the rest?”
For Abed, a 54-year-old father of two from Beirut, such kindness has become a lifeline. He told Al Jazeera on Friday that he was going to ask a neighbour for a bread donation later in the day, something the metal-worker said he has never done before. 
“I’m ashamed,” he said. “My neighbours are helping me but we’re all pretty much in the same situation.” 
Abid, who asked Al Jazeera to withhold his surname, said he owes three months rent on his house, two months rent on his small shop, and has not been able to work a day in the past month due to the lockdown.
As conditions become more dire, people are defying the government’s stay-at-home orders to voice their discontent in the streets.
Protests have erupted in Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli and the town of Aley on Thursday and Friday, in complete violation of social distancing measures and the curfew in place.
While the anti-establishment protests that erupted last year called for freedom, secularism and unity, the tone of demonstrations has shifted to something more visceral and immediate; an outcry of people fighting for their very survival. 
“Get off our backs, we are hungry,” those in Aley chanted as they marched through dark streets. “We want to eat, we want to live.”
Continue Reading…

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

firing

14 million face hunger in Latin America: Live coronavirus updates |NationalTribune.com

The English Premier League and Italy’s Serie A are set to resume in June after a near-three month suspension over coronavirus fears. China again reported no new cases as US President Donald Trump renewed attacks on Beijing over the coronavirus pandemic. He called the virus “a very bad gift from China”. Cases of community transmission…

14 million face hunger in Latin America: Live coronavirus updates |NationalTribune.com

The English Premier League and Italy’s Serie A are set to resume in June after a near-three month suspension over coronavirus fears.

China again reported no new cases as US President Donald Trump renewed attacks on Beijing over the coronavirus pandemic. He called the virus “a very bad gift from China”.

Cases of community transmission of the coronavirus are growing in Africa, particularly in Ethiopia, and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said new strategy for testing is needed to curb the virus’s spread.

European governments moved to halt the use of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients.

More than 5.8 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Some 359,000 people have died, while more than 2.4 million have recovered.

Here are the latest updates:
Friday, May 29
02:07 GMT – South Korea reports 58 cases
South Korea reported 58 new cases of the coronavirus for May 28, all in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, as officials scrambled to stem transmissions linked to a massive e-commerce warehouse near the capital.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for officials to examine working conditions at warehouses of online shopping companies, which have seen orders surge during the pandemic, and other congested workplaces where infection risks may be high.
South Korea has reported 177 new COVID-19 cases over the past three days, a resurgence that threatens to erase some of its hard-won gains against the virus and worsen a massive shock to the country’s trade-dependent economy.
01:55 GMT – India: Under Lockdown
Social distancing and good hygiene are essential weapons in the fight against COVID-19.
But how can you maintain social distancing in one of the world’s largest slums? How can you wash your hands regularly when there is no running water? And what happens when millions of people who survive on meagre wages are suddenly without work and struggling to feed themselves?
Check out this investigation from 101 East on how India’s poor fared under the world’s biggest lockdown.

101 EAST | India: Under Lockdown (24:56)

01:40 GMT – Cricket-Twenty20 World Cup schedule under ‘very high risk’
Cricket Australia boss Kevin Roberts downplayed the prospect of the Twenty20 World Cup going ahead in 2020, saying the October-November schedule was under “very high risk” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously, we’ve been hopeful all along that it could be staged in October-November but you would have to say there is a very high risk about the prospect of that happening,” Roberts told reporters in a video call.
“In the event that doesn’t happen, there are potential windows in the February-March period, October-November the following year.”
00:46 GMT – China reports no new coronavirus cases
Health authorities in China reported no new confirmed coronavirus cases in the mainland as of the end of May 28.
The National Health Commission, however, did confirm five new asymptomatic coronavirus cases on May 28, down from 23 a day earlier.

Surveillance amid coronavirus outbreak (3:39)

00:28 GMT – Australia’s New South Wales state warns of COVID-19 budget toll
The Australian state of New South Wales said the coronavirus pandemic could cost it as much A$20bn ($13.3bn) in lost revenues over the next four years, underscoring the urgency to revive the country’s stuttering economy.
Releasing its first estimate of the economic impact of coronavirus, NSW said budget deficits totalling A$10-20 billion are expected over the next four years, a far cry from its previous estimate in December 2019 of an average budget surplus of A$1.9 billion over four years.
“We are facing the type of economic challenge not seen in generations, perhaps not since people were hammering the last rivet into the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 1930s,” said NSW state Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.
00:16 GMT – 14 million additional people could go hungry in Latin America
The World Food Programme said some 14 million people in in Latin America and the Caribbean could experience severe food insecurity this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is vital and urgent that we provide food assistance to the growing number of vulnerable people in the region, as well as those who depend on informal work”, said Miguel Barreto, WFP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“We still have time to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from becoming a hunger pandemic.”
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives. 
You can find all the updates from yesterday, May 28 here.
Continue Reading…

Continue Reading

hunger

‘We’ll die of hunger first’: Despair as Zimbabwe lockdown begins

Harare, Zimbabwe – It was still early on Sunday morning when Stewart Dzivira, his wife and their two-year-old son, jumped on a bus in Glen View, a densely populated suburb of Harare, to head into Zimbabwe’s capital. For days now, the 33-year-old has been unsuccessfully trying to get maize meal, or mealie meal, a Zimbabwean staple…

‘We’ll die of hunger first’: Despair as Zimbabwe lockdown begins

Harare, Zimbabwe – It was still early on Sunday morning when Stewart Dzivira, his wife and their two-year-old son, jumped on a bus in Glen View, a densely populated suburb of Harare, to head into Zimbabwe’s capital.
For days now, the 33-year-old has been unsuccessfully trying to get maize meal, or mealie meal, a Zimbabwean staple that has been in short supply following a devastating drought two years ago.
More:

‘How will we survive?’: Health woes deepen Zimbabwe COVID-19 fear

Virus fears prompt Zimbabwe to let citizens pay in US dollars

Zimbabwe farmers turn to smart solutions to fight climate change

“We desperately need to get maize now that there is a lockdown,” Dzivira told Al Jazeera, holding his son while sitting on the concrete pavement outside a miller’s building in central Harare.
He was not alone. Hundreds of others were queueing alongside him on the eve of the start of a three-week lockdown imposed by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“All citizens are required to stay at home, with the exception of those seeking health services, buying food, medicine and vital supplies, and those manning our essential services,” President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Friday as he announced the lockdown.
“I know that these measures may seem drastic, and will upset all of our daily lives, but there is no other way,” added Mnangagwa, two weeks after declaring a “national disaster” and banning gatherings of more than 100 people.

As of Sunday, COVID-19 had infected seven people in Zimbabwe and caused the death of one person, 30-year-old broadcaster Zororo Makamba.
The threat of the new disease could not have come at a worse time for millions of Zimbabweans already struggling with a deepening economic crisis bringing soaring food prices, stagnant salaries, water shortages and daily power blackouts.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s annual inflation soared to more than 500 percent in February. The unemployment rate stands at more than 90 percent, medicines are scarce, and depleted state coffers mean that the government is unable to purchase sufficient supplies for the already weakened state-run medical facilities.
In December last year, the World Food Programme warned that Zimbabwe was facing its worst hunger crisis in 10 years with half of the population – 7.7 million people – food insecure.
“We know there is corona[virus] in the country, but we will die of hunger first if we don’t get mealie meal,” Dzivira said.

A coronavirus awareness billboard at a highway in Harare [Aaron Ufumeli/EPA] 

Dzivira is one of the millions of unemployed Zimbabweans who depend on informal jobs to put food on the table.
Under the lockdown, he doubts he will be able to go out and find any menial job – his source of income – in and around Harare.
“I don’t know how I will be surviving during the lockdown period,” said Dzivira whose daily diet comprises three meals of sadza, a corn paste, and vegetables. “I hustle for food every day, and it’s going to be a challenge for me and my family.”
Dorothy Mazonde, a 39-year mother of five, echoed his fears.
“I can’t afford to stock groceries because things are very expensive now,” Mazonde, who sells airtime and drinks in the streets of Harare, told Al Jazeera.
“I am living hand to mouth from my vending activities.”

A young boy sits in a queue for cooking gas in Harare after President Mnangagwa announced a nationwide lockdown for 21 days [Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/The Associated Press]

Labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the new coronavirus has wreaked havoc across the world, forcing an increasing number of countries to shut borders and impose sweeping measures in a bid to stop the spread of the disease.
To date, 723,000 infections have been reported in more than 175 countries and territories, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US. Some 34,000 people have died, and 152,000 have recovered.
Although a lockdown appears to have helped containment efforts in China, where the coronavirus was first detected late last year, experts questioned the enforcement of similar measures in a country like Zimbabwe.
“It’s not practically possible to lock down in an informal economy without any form of relief to the needy,” Shami Fred, an epidemiologist, told Al Jazeera.
“Yes, the whole world is on lockdown, it’s the right thing to do. But without water, it’s a futile and grave exercise. Electricity, among other must-haves, is scarce.”
Frequent and thorough hand-washing with soap and water is one of the most basic weapons against the coronavirus, but in Harare alone, one million people are without running water.
On Sunday, a crowd of more than 50 people gathered at the community borehole in Kuwadzana 3, a high-density suburb west of Harareto, to fetch water.
“We have not had water for three days,” Nozipho Mpambawashe, a 25-year-old mother of one, told Al Jazeera, adding that the water supply has been erratic for the past two weeks
“We are worried because we don’t have reliable water supply. Even with a lockdown, I will still need water for cleaning, washing, cooking and drinking,” she said.
Continue Reading…

Continue Reading

chaos'

Chaos and hunger amid India coronavirus lockdown

New Delhi, India – As countries globally began enforcing strict lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, India, the world’s second most populous country, followed suit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a 21-day lockdown to contain the virus spread that has now killed 17 Indians and infected more than 700 others.  More: Coronavirus:…

Chaos and hunger amid India coronavirus lockdown

New Delhi, India – As countries globally began enforcing strict lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, India, the world’s second most populous country, followed suit.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a 21-day lockdown to contain the virus spread that has now killed 17 Indians and infected more than 700 others. 
More:

Coronavirus: Mumbai waste collectors work with their bare hands

India’s coronavirus lockdown takes toll on migrant workers

Foreign tourists face hostility in India amid coronavirus panic

The South Asian nation reported its first coronavirus case on January 30 but in recent weeks the number of infections has climbed rapidly, worrying public health experts who say the government should have acted sooner.

“The police will beat me. I’m afraid they’ll beat me.” Police across India are using force against violators of the country’s 21-day nationwide coronavirus lockdown. pic.twitter.com/cviSrdSs54
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) March 26, 2020

India’s main opposition Congress party has also criticised the government over a delayed response.
Government defends lockdown
But the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sundhanshu Mittal said India was one of few countries to have acted swiftly and decisively to contain the outbreak.

“You can’t have knee-jerk reactions to such catastrophes without evaluating and anticipating the scale of the problem and looking at the international domain knowledge and consensus. A lot of administrative decisions were made,” he said.
India’s Health and Family Welfare Ministry claims the rate of increase in infections has stabilised. “While the numbers of COVID-19 cases are increasing, the rate at which they are increasing appears to be relatively stabilising. However, this is only the initial trend,” a spokesperson said.
According to the latest report by the country’s top medical research body, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 27,688 coronavirus tests had been carried out by 9am on Friday.
“A total of 691 individuals have been confirmed positive among suspected cases and contacts of known positive cases,” read the ICMR update. On Thursday, India witnessed the highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases of 88 people.
While the numbers do not paint a grim picture compared to other countries that are finding it difficult to contain the virus, concern is growing among healthcare experts who believe that the number of infections could be far higher than what is being reported.
Academics from three American universities and the Delhi School of Economics in a report based on current trends and demographics have claimed that India could experience as many as 1.3 million coronavirus infections by mid-May.
Scaling up testing facilities
Experts also say India’s capacity to test is poor and more robust testing would reveal the true extent of the pandemic.

“Could Yogi not have arranged even a bus for us, Is it because we’re? Poor?”-Rajneesh, is walking 247Km on foot to Bareilly. “Poverty will kill us before the virus”- If we airlift Indians how can we abandon millions of our poor. If states wont, let the Army. My #Mojo report pic.twitter.com/mZhRPO5bQf
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) March 26, 2020

“We have to test anyone who is showing any symptoms, we can’t be restricted to hospitalised cases or those with travel history,” said Dr T Sundaraman, the national convener of the People’s Health Movement.
“We don’t know much because the rate of testing is still modest and very limited. If the testing expands we may find the real numbers which we don’t have,” he told Al Jazeera.

People walk in a crowded Mandi (market place) in New Delhi, as the nationwide lockdown continues [Yawar Nazir/Getty Images]

Facing its biggest health emergency since the country gained independence from Britain in 1947, the Indian government announced a series of steps starting with a 14-hour public curfew on Sunday. 
The government has also scaled up testing facilities and engaged private contractors to help it conduct tests.
From 72 testing centres initially, India now has 104, with a capacity to test 8,000 samples daily. Another two rapid testing laboratories that can conduct more than 1,400 tests per day are also expected to be operating soon.
Leena Meghaney, a legal expert on public healthcare, claimed that a global shortage of chemicals used in the tests and the validation of testing kits being produced domestically were hindering India’s testing capacity.
“This shortage was not specific to India but a global phenomenon. It happened in the USA and France, and India must have faced a similar shortage. The government had to scale it up and procure testing kits from companies which had to be first validated [which] also took some time,” Meghaney told Al Jazeera.
Shortage of PPE and ventilators
Not only is India’s testing capability low, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the country is also facing a shortage of equipment needed to support medical staff.
Some say shortages of N-95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) used by healthcare workers have been caused by a last-minute rush by the government, despite the World Health Organization (WHO) warning governments in February to scale up production.
India has 0.7 hospital beds for every 100,000 people, far fewer than countries like South Korea (six per 100,000) that have been able to successfully contain the virus.
Ventilators are also in short supply. India has nearly 100,000 ventilators but most are owned by private hospitals and are already being used by existing patients with critical illnesses.

A man walks past parked supply trucks at a yard during the lockdown in Kolkata [Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]

Some reports suggest that India needs another 70,000 ventilators, which it usually imports, but on Friday, the government announced that it had ordered only 10,000. 
“Ventilators are a costly and critical piece of equipment which are going to go under production by [the state-run] Defence Research and Development Organisation,” said Dr Preeti Kumar of the Public Health Foundation of India, a public-private organisation.
“And then we have items like caps, masks, gowns and gloves. These are high-volume and low-cost consumables that will definitely be produced. It is not the state that is going to produce, it will only order. A lot will depend on how geared up our production companies are to come up to speed and start producing.” 
Migrants workers stranded
Meanwhile, Sundaraman from the People’s Health Movement highlighted how the stress of lockdown appeared to be overtaking the stress of the disease. Sundaraman said his biggest concern was the thousands of migrants who found themselves stranded across India as Modi announced the lockdown with just four hours’ notice.
“What is really worrying is the huge migration that has started across the country. You just can’t stop public transport like that. The lockdown should have been done in a phased way. People shouldn’t be stranded without income, without work. Even in an authoritarian state, they would know that this is something the state has to do,” said Sundaraman.

Slum dwellers in Ahmedabad receive free food packets during a 21-day nationwide lockdown [Amit Dave/Reuters]

Photographs of migrant workers walking hundreds of kilometres or crammed in trucks and empty railway crates show how the government ignored their plight.
Police have also resorted to heavy-handedness against migrants, street vendors and meat sellers. One person died in the state of West Bengal after being beaten up by police for venturing out to buy milk during the lockdown.
In a video shared on Twitter, police appeared to use batons on Muslim worshippers leaving a mosque during a ban on religious gatherings. Al Jazeera has not verified whether the video is authentic.
Meanwhile, in an apparent violation of the lockdown rules, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, was seen organising a religious function in Ayodhya town.
‘Totally unplanned’
Reetika Khera, associate professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and a right to food activist, claimed that the prime minister’s speeches created panic among migrants and then police mishandled the lockdown.
“Now the police are the biggest problem. They are violating government rules. Essential services are to remain open and the biggest violator is the police. I am not sure about the government’s communication strategy, they are supposed to be sharp at that but clearly that is not the case if we can’t communicate clearly to the police,” she said.
The lockdown has also led to the shutdown of routine healthcare services, with Megahney claiming that people with other illnesses have now been stranded without healthcare.
“I know a number of people with HIV who have been stranded. Similarly, a lot of cancer patients are finding it hard to access basic healthcare services. This must be addressed urgently because one of the fallouts of COVID-19 could be that people with other diseases could end up paying the price,” said Meghaney.
Mittal, the BJP leader said the lockdown was announced swiftly so the government could contain the spread of infection.
“If there are migrants who are stranded, government is making provisions to make them reach their houses.”
Meanwhile, the Indian government on Thursday announced a $23bn fiscal stimulus package to help the poor address financial hardships during the three-week lockdown. India’s finance minister claimed that no one would go hungry during this period. 
“One unequivocally good announcement is the doubling of entitlement for existing Public Distribution System card holders,” Khera told Al Jazeera.
India has an existing welfare programme for the poor and the government appears to be using that to provide direct cash transfers and food grains.
However, nearly 85 percent of India’s population works in the informal sector and migrants, in particular, do not have access to these resources.

India under complete lockdown due to COVID-19 [Javed Sultan/Anadolu]

Continue Reading…

Continue Reading

Trending