A UN agency warned Wednesday that more than half of Lebanon’s population is now trapped in poverty.
In a newly published report, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia estimates that 55 percent of the population lived in poverty as of May this year, up from 28 percent last year.
The announcement comes as Lebanon is in the midst of a multipronged crisis exacerbated by a rampant COVID-19 crisis and most recently by a deadly explosion that devastated large parts of Beirut. Estimates at the total cost of repairing the damage are as high as $15 billion.
The report also warns that Lebanon’s middle-income status is at serious risk. It estimates that the middle class has shrunk from 57 to 40 percent of the population.
Such statistic will likely resonate with many Lebanese who are being forced to consider emigration as the opportunities remaining to them in Lebanon are evaporating alongside the country’s financial demise.
Meanwhile, those bracketed in extreme poverty have had a threefold increase on last year, up from eight to 23 percent.
As well as estimating on Lebanon’s declining wealth, the report also highlighted the unequal distribution of wealth in the country, with one of the highest concentration of billionaires per capita and the top 10 percent owning 70 percent of the country’s wealth.
The report advocates for a national solidarity fund and more transparency on individual income and wealth to enable a centralized scheme targeting poverty reduction and wealth distribution.