While more than a quarter of the Lebanese population lives below the poverty line, marginalisation and vulnerability are even more widespread. Children and youth are dropping out of school to join the labour force and contribute to the family’s income. Many have no hope for a secure future. Lack of job opportunities and choices make children in Lebanon more vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. Corporal punishment and domestic abuse against children are prevalent and the country’s under-resourced child protection system is failing them, accompanied by issues of marginalisation, powerlessness and voicelessness shape the quality of life for a significant number of the Lebanese population.
The rapid urbanisation of Lebanon is also contributing to the increased physical poverty. Poverty pockets characterised by high density of residents, over crowdedness, absence of proper physical infrastructure and lack of access to basic goods and services, are becoming more evident. Rural poverty is also prevalent, especially in the North, Bekaa and South of Lebanon, where people depend upon agriculture for their livelihood.
Socio-political isolation and marginalisation also contribute to and are the result of poverty in Lebanon. A sectarian divide exists in the country leading to a spatial division and seclusion of the different religious communities. Palestinian refugees living in camps and informal settlements in Lebanon are among the most marginalised groups in the country.
Children and youth in Lebanon, in general, lack hope for a safe and secure future having lived through several wars and being constantly exposed to the instability of the country. Child labour, driven by the poor financial situations in families exists not only in urban communities but also in rural areas, especially those known for tobacco farming. Exposed to the street hazards of substance and drug use, delinquency and street conflicts, etc. youth are also considered among the most vulnerable in Lebanon. Children and youth more than often lack safe, neutral (of political and religious affiliations) and public spaces where they can channel their energy positively and be engaged in community life.
Poverty in a middle-income country like Lebanon is often seen as an embarrassment. Most people are not even aware of its prevalence in the country, much less understand its causes and dynamics. Lebanon is one of the few countries in the region that is not resource rich and is dependent upon service industries like tourism and hospitality, banking and financial services. All of these are easily disrupted by political tensions, uncertainty, violence and conflict. This places severe restrictions on the Government’s budget to address issues of poverty.