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What is happening in Lebanon?

Following a massive explosion in the Lebanese capital of Beirut last Tuesday, killing approximately 160 people, and the resignation of the entire government, the world’s attention was turned towards what has been a steadily growing humanitarian crisis in the country.

Yesterday, the prime minister of Lebanon, Hassan Diab, resigned after more than a third of his cabinet also decided to step down from the government. This follows rising inflation – particularly on food – and widespread corruption within the country, which Diab lambasted as “bigger than the state” during a resignation speech on Monday night.

Seven members of parliament have also resigned, with a reported attempt to force further resignations and prompt elections in the country, potentially paving way for a government that could tackle the ‘deep corruption’ that runs through the country.

The situation in Lebanon has deteriorated quickly following the explosion at a port in Beirut, however, protests and tension have been rising in the country throughout the year. Ravaged by Coronavirus, the nation has faced humanitarian crises which were only exacerbated by the deadly blast.

Aid organisations, such as the United Nations Food Programme, have been attempting to establish supply chains to ensure that Lebanese people are able to access food, with inflated food prices meaning that many people are unable to access nutrition.

Protesters have been gathering in Lebanon’s major cities following the blast, which is believed to be the result of a stockpile of poorly maintained chemicals that ignited, destroying much of the surrounding area and damaging swathes of Beirut.

The explosion has been the trigger for the latest round of protests, however, Lebanon has long been experiencing its worst financial crisis in decades, whilst the country has been struck disastrously by Coronavirus, with hospitals under-resourced to deal with the swathe of patients coming through their doors.

In lieu of better healthcare infrastructure, Lebanon has been relying primarily upon international organisations, such as the Red Cross, who are the largest provider of ambulances services within the nation.

The crisis in Lebanon has not simply been an occurrence of Covid-19 however, with Prime Minister Diab only installed in power last year following popular uprisings that saw former PM Saad Harari ousted in December.

Harari resigned following a popular uprising, known as the ‘October Revolution’ which saw Lebanese people protest against government corruption, economic stagnation, and an unemployment rate that was as high as 48% in 2018.

Evidently, the humanitarian situation in Lebanon is long-standing and dangerous, with a looming water crisis only worsening the current situation. The ongoing crises have meant that there are now more Lebanese people living outside of the country than within it.

Diab, who was backed by Hezbollah when assuming office, despite popular discontent at his appointment, failed to arrest the corruption or economic collapse felt within Lebanon, despite proclaiming himself a reformer upon coming to power.

The resignation of his government is symptomatic of a nation in crisis, one that cannot effectively manage crises and one that is effectively unelected, with the last election being held in 2018; two prime ministers ago.

It is thought that more resignations from parliament will follow, triggering an election, but the deep-rooted economic and humanitarian crises in Lebanon will require long term reform that cannot be easily achieved.

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