Over the past few weeks, the internet has been flooded with photos of people offering personal belongings in exchange for basic needs. Items like clothes, baby crawlers, and wedding dresses are being bartered for milk, cooking oil, and diapers.
Lebanon's financial crisis seems to be chasing a very peculiar quest: rock bottom. The Lebanese pound (LBP) has been unstable since 2019, more precisely (and a lot more obviously) since October of that year. As the official rate remains 1,507 LBP to $1 - found almost nowhere - the black market keeps on surprising. A single one dollar bill is now worth over 10,000 LBP — that if you're lucky enough to put your hands of the green banknotes. With this tragic situation comes unemployment, bankruptcy, poverty, and emigration.
The free fall of Lebanon's currency along with the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced multiple businesses to close their doors and almost all markets to increase their prices by 60 to 100 percent. This culmination of hits has led to the unemployment of countless people who were left unable to afford basic necessities.
Aiming at helping those in need, Facebook pages and groups were created to allow people to post what they're willing to give up and what they need in return. One page called Lebanon Barters or لبنان يقايض has garnered more than 15,000 members since May 31 and has devoted its comments section to people interested in the exchange process.
In an interview with Al Ain news site, creator of the page Hassan Hasna explained how the idea of bartering is not limited to exchanging items but can also reach various services and donations.
One such post shows over 25 photos of the interior of a shoes and accessories store, with a caption that details the will to trade all the content, including products and shelves, with something that holds the same value. Another post has a photo of a grey couch and a caption asking for an oven.
Another page called LibanTroc was founded in December 2019 and now has over 56,000 members.
"The page grew very fast as unemployment increased and increasingly more people found themselves in need," Hala Dahrouj, founder of LibanTroc, told France 24.
Scrolling through these Facebook pages is no different than taking a look at the pictures of empty fridges recently released by Agence France-Presse (AFP). Heartbreaking photos portraying the harsh reality the Lebanese are facing due to poverty are the new global image to represent the country.
More on-ground initiatives like FoodBlessed are working to provide food packages for people in need. The self-funded and volunteer-driven organization has been managing to give out 200 boxes of food every week since October 2019. However, due to the growing number of unemployed and deprived citizens, it's becoming a challenging job to feed all the hungry mouths.
The Lebanese government estimates that 75 percent of the population is currently in need of aid. According to Human Rights Watch, millions of residents are at risk of starvation if the government does not put in place a vigorous plan to alleviate poverty.
With Lebanon being the third most indebted country in the world, people are struggling to survive the harsh conditions caused by political corruption and economic mismanagement.