With almost no national welfare system, the elderly in Lebanon can only earn a living amid the country’s deteriorating economic disaster.
In their heyday, they survived 15 years of civil war and several rounds of instability that began in 1975. Now, in the past 150 years, one of the world’s worst financial crises has plunged many people into poverty in their later years.
Lebanon has the largest elderly population in the Middle East-10% of its 6 million population are over 65 years old. According to the United Nations International Labor Organization, about 80% of Lebanese people 65 years of age or older do not have retirement benefits or medical insurance.
As the unemployment rate rises, family members and charities, traditionally the main source of support, are struggling to cope with the increasing demand.
Any dollar savings that the elderly have spent their entire lives working are locked in the bank and cannot be obtained in the banking crisis. As the local currency depreciated against the U.S. dollar, savings lost nearly 90%. Imported medicines and basic commodities are at risk, and the once reliable healthcare system is collapsing.
Joe Taoutel, who runs Rafiq el-Darb or Friends until the End, said that in the past two years, more and more elderly people have taken to the streets, looking for rubbish or begging.
Taoutel provides family meals to more than 60 elderly families, up from five before the crisis.
“Those who once gave need help now,” Tauter said.
Since the beginning of the crisis at the end of 2019, the government is working hard to provide food for 55% of the population now living below the poverty line.
With the economic downturn, more and more young Lebanese people are migrating, leaving behind elderly parents.