With Lebanon’s economy and currency in freefall, families who have lost everything are bartering all they own to try to feed their children. On the SAT-7 ARABIC program You Are Not Alone, images of empty fridges and the story of a desperate, yet dignified father build to one cry: please unite in prayer for Lebanon.

Lebanese father Toni Fares has a message for his three-year-old daughter. “If I sold every single thing in my house, and there was nothing left, I would be ready to sell a part of my body if it meant you could live,” he says. Fares lost his job as a taxi driver at the beginning of the pandemic, and even with another breadwinner working two jobs, his family have not eaten meat in six months. Each day, they live off the same thing: potatoes and eggs.

Asked if he will open his fridge, Fares cannot bring himself to do it. “I still have dignity,” he says. “You’ll see nothing but a bag of bread and some water bottles.” Since central power cuts stretch longer and longer, and Fares can no longer run a generator, the fridge is often off anyway. “I feel useless,” he says. “I can’t look in my mother’s eyes; my sister’s eyes, my daughter’s eyes.” What hurts the most, he says, is the impact on his daughter. Fares does not take her out of the house for fear she will ask for something he cannot afford. He has already had to sell her beloved swing, and the family’s washing machine, to buy food.

Fares’ situation is the dire new norm for many families in Lebanon, where the coronavirus has sharpened the economic crisis that drove protesters to the streets last year.

“It is tragic to see my homeland descending again into darkness, into economic and political chaos. People are starving. There are shortages of medicine and electricity and social security support is non-existent. The currency has plummeted, leaving even those who have jobs unable to meet their monthly expenses. The country is gripped by desperation,” says Rita El-Mounayer, SAT-7’s CEO.

The episode of You Are Not Alone that gives a platform to Fares’ voice begins with images of empty fridges in Lebanese homes. “These were taken in houses where hunger and pain are the new roommates of the Lebanese people,” says Presenter Sirene Sermidjian. “People who used to afford a decent life are now considered impoverished. Some Lebanese now describe meat as a dream.”

The episode also highlights social media posts in which parents attempt to barter the most basic home items – cups, shoes, clothes, chairs – in exchange for food, formula milk, and nappies. A heart-breaking video also shows a pregnant woman and her husband forced to search rubbish bins for food.

“It will take a miracle from the Lord”

As the full economic effects of the pandemic unfold, further pain is likely for Lebanon and for the Middle East and North Africa as a whole. Responding to the oil price crunch, the IMF recently projected the region’s economy will shrink by 4.7 percent by the end of 2020. Worldwide, the UN estimates 132m more people will be pushed into chronic hunger.

This Wednesday, SAT-7 will join a nationwide prayer movement to lift Lebanon up to God.

“While SAT-7 remains a platform for people to express their concerns and for church leaders to share prayers, it will truly take a miracle from the Lord to turn the situation around in Lebanon. Please join us and the churches of Lebanon on 15 July to pray for Lebanon, and for God to demonstrate His love and mercy to its people,” says El-Mounayer.

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