(Photo credit: The National News)
On 26 May, Lebanon’s Minister of Health, Firas Abyad, warned of the rapid deterioration of the Lebanese health sector and affirmed his ministry’s support for the strike carried out by the country’s Syndicate of Private Hospital Owners.
“The health sector is dying … We join the Syndicate of Hospitals [in demanding] that “its funds must be released,” Abyad said, in reference to the failure of the Banque du Liban (Lebanon’s central bank) to transfer the wages of Lebanese healthcare workers.
Lebanon’s Syndicate of Private Hospital Owners organized a sit-in demonstration in front of the Banque du Liban on 26 May, in protest of the institution’s failure to transfer employee wages, as well as the negative impact of its policies on the Lebanese population in general.
As a result of the strike, several healthcare facilities in the country’s northern city of Tripoli were shut down.
“We mediated with the Banque du Liban to release part of the hospital funds, but unfortunately we were not able to achieve anything and we were not responded to, either by the [Banque du Liban] or by the other banks,” Abyad said, adding that Lebanon has become “a cash economy.”
The Lebanese pound (LBP) has plummeted to a new historic low, reaching 38,000 LBP to the dollar on 27 May, as divisions and concerns of a political deadlock plague the newly elected parliament.
Lawmakers have so far failed to hold their first session as political tension rises over the upcoming election of a parliamentary speaker, which according to Lebanese law must take place within 15 days after the general elections are held.
“What Lebanon did towards the displaced Syrians was a duty that it performed on behalf of the whole world, and after all these efforts, it has the right to invest to support the health system,” Abyad said in reference to Lebanon’s struggle in coping with the refugee crisis.
On 30 April, Lebanese Labor Minister Mustafa Bayram said that the crisis-hit nation is no longer capable of hosting Syrian refugees without foreign assistance.
“The situation has become unbearable,” Bayram noted at the time. Lebanon has been suffering from economic and social pressures caused by the presence of refugees on its territory and is seeking to resolve this issue.
In November of last year, Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said that the west is trying to obstruct the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland.
Lebanon has been “facing some difficulties from the west because they say that they do not want these refugees to return to Syria for reasons related to their position on the Syrian government,” Bou Habib said.