One of the world’s worst economic collapses, now compounded by the Ukraine crisis: What’s next for Lebanon?
High food prices and supply disruptions triggered by the Ukraine war are hitting Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries like Egypt, Sudan, and Yemen hard, partly due their heavy dependence on wheat imports. But in the region, Lebanon—already in the midst of one of the world’s worst economic collapses since the 1850s—is uniquely vulnerable to food security impacts from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
A recent World Bank report calls Lebanon’s current crisis “The Great Denial”—referring to an ongoing breakdown of government services, civil society, and the economy.
Global food prices are on the rise. FAO’s Food Price Index indicates prices in international markets have risen by 40 percent from a year ago (May 2020). Prices of vegetable oils in particular have surged, showing an increase by almost 110 percent over the past year. Other commodity prices, like those for metals, oil, and other minerals prices also have shown sustained increases since mid-2020.
How concerned should we be?
The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated policy responses have had wide-ranging impacts across the globe in terms of health, food security, incomes and livelihoods, and access to critical services. According to the 2021 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR), released this week by IFPRI, COVID-19’s effects have moved the world further away from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Over the last year, COVID-19 has undone the economic, health and food security of millions, pushing as many as 150 million people into extreme poverty. While the health and economic impacts of the pandemic have been devastating, the rise in hunger has been one of its most tangible symptoms.