Disabled Lebanese face mounting challenges amid protracted financial crisis

BEIRUT – Sadiq Hatoum had been in a wheelchair for years before a charitable organization provided him with a pair of artificial limbs in 2019 that enabled him to stand up again.

Hatoum had both of his legs amputated about seven years ago after being injured by a cluster bomb left behind by the Israeli army in the 2006 war against Lebanon.

The 46-year-old Lebanese said he was lucky to have received the help, because both local and international associations now have to reduce their support for disabled people in Lebanon due to the country’s ongoing financial crisis.

Since 2019, Lebanon has been suffering from the worst financial crisis in its history, leading to high unemployment and inflation rates as well as a sharp depreciation of the local currency. To prevent capital flight, the country’s banks have limited the amount of money people can withdraw from their bank accounts.

“The crisis weighed heavily on health care services that authorities provided to disabled people,” said Khaled Merheh, who had lost one eye and one leg in a landmine explosion when collecting wild herbs in the southern village of Houla.

“It took me around four years to obtain an artificial limb from an international association. I then continued the treatment at a local association that handles cases like mine,” he added.

Nasser Abu Latif, head of the al-Ro’ya association that cares for the disabled with support from foreign organizations, told Xinhua that people with special needs in Lebanon are living under challenging conditions, some of whom are unemployed and mired in poverty.

“The worsening living conditions aggravated the disabled people’s suffering as they can no longer obtain enough medicines, ” Abu Latif explained.

He called on health and social affairs authorities to ensure social protection for people with special needs, and local authorities to permit institutions that care for disabled people to withdraw their bank deposits. He noted that many of these institutions had to close their doors after their employees’ number dropped by around 20 percent.

For her part, Lina Abou Karnib, director of Hasbaya Center for Care and Development, which cares for 80 disabled people in al-Khan Market in southern Lebanon, said that her center is currently struggling to acquire the necessary equipment.

“We need the funds terribly, because the Ministry of Social Affairs has not paid our dues since 2020 due to the financial crisis,” she said.

Reports released by the Ministry of Social Affairs indicate that it needs more funds in light of the country’s crisis. It has contracts with more than 100 associations dedicated to the rehabilitation of people with disabilities.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 400,000 disabled people in Lebanon, including 8,558 children aged between five and 14. ■

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