Rear View – Lebanon in review (25 July 2021)
19 July: Aoun: Selection of Prime Minister to begin July 26
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has announced that parliamentary consultations to select a new Prime Minister will begin on Monday, July 26th.
Last week, Saad Hariri abandoned his efforts to form a new government after nearly 10 months of futile talks with President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, and ally of the Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah.
Lebanon has been run by a caretaker government for nearly a year. Meanwhile, the nation’s currency has collapsed, many people have lost their jobs and banks have frozen customers’ accounts in what has been described as one of the most severe financial crises the world has seen in modern times.
20 July: Israel responds to Lebanese rockets with shells
On July 20th, two rockets were launched at Israel from Lebanon, setting off sirens but causing no damage or injury. The Israeli military claimed that their missile defense system shot down one rocket while the other landed in an open area.
An artillery barrage was subsequently fired in response, hitting the area of Wadi Hamoul but causing no injury or damage, according to Lebanese Army sources.
The UN peacekeeping force in the border region, UNIFIL, said it had boosted security in the area and “launched an investigation” with the Lebanese military.
20 July: Biden: Hezbollah’s Iranian weapons endanger Lebanon and US
US President Joe Biden has said that weapons supplied by Iran to Hezbollah undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty and chances of stability and threaten US security and foreign policy.
Biden wrote to the Federal Register, saying that “several ongoing activities – such as Iranian arms transfers to Hezbollah, involving increasingly sophisticated weaponry – undermine Lebanese sovereignty and promote political and economic instability.” He added that Iran’s weapons supplied to Hezbollah remained an extraordinary and unusual threat to United States security and foreign policy.
Consequently, Biden has notified Congress that it should continue the national emergency declared with respect to Lebanon in Executive Order 13441 on August 1st 2007. This order was passed in response to high levels of interference by Syria in Lebanese affairs at the time, which then-President George W. Bush declared “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.
22 July: Complete halt to Lebanese medicine imports
Ghassan Al-Amin, the head of the Lebanese Order of Pharmacists, has announced that medicine importers have stopped distributing to Lebanese pharmacies. This has caused 60% – 70% of medicines to be unavailable in pharmacies nationwide.
Last week, pharmacists around the country called an open strike against Lebanon’s state medicine subsidy, stating that they could no longer serve patients without a price index, a pricing table, and protection from security forces.
The next day, caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hasan announced that the subsidy of medicines priced lower than 12,000 Lebanese pounds and available at primary healthcare centers would be lifted.
The shortage of medicine is said to be the result of both the financial crisis and rampant smuggling, and has sparked the hoarding of remaining supplies.
22 July: Power cuts sign of looming catastrophe for Lebanese hospitals
As Lebanon faces the latest wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, its worst financial and economic crisis ever is having a devastating effect on the health sector.
The supply of state-provided electricity has become even more inconsistent and interrupted in recent weeks, with some places experiencing cuts of up to 23 hours a day. Homes, businesses, and hospitals are being forced to use backup generators, requiring precious fuel that is already in short supply nationwide.
Power cuts are only one factor in the catastrophe facing Lebanon’s health sector. Firass Abiad, manager of the Rafik Hariri University Hospital – the largest public hospital in the country battling COVID-19 – said, “All hospitals… are now less prepared than they were during the wave at the start of the year.” On top of the electricity shortages, “Medical and nursing staff have left [and] medicine that was once available has run out”.
Abiad added that sometimes “we’re forced to ask the patients’ relatives to go and try to find the medicine from another hospital or a pharmacy.”
23 July: Lebanese water system on brink of collapse
Lebanon’s water supply system is on the verge of total collapse, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Shortages in funding, fuel, and other supplies such as chlorine and spare parts will cause more than 71% of the Lebanese population to lose access to safe water over the next 4 to 6 weeks.
Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon, said, “A loss of access to the public water supply could force households to make extremely difficult decisions regarding their basic water, sanitation and hygiene needs.”
This latest development in Lebanon’s devastating economic and political crisis is estimated to affect over 4 million people in Lebanon, including more than 1 million refugees.
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