Suicide: Cruel choice for Lebanese unable to feed their children

During 2023, more manifestation of poverty was seen in Lebanon. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 06 March 2023
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Suicide: Cruel choice for Lebanese unable to feed their children

  • Study shows significant increase in those people taking their own lives

BEIRUT: At least four Lebanese people have died by suicide in the past week.

The population of the country is finding the prevailing economic and social conditions hard to bear, and Diab Audi, a retired warrant officer in the Internal Security Forces, died after suffering a heart attack inside a Lebanese bank, unable to retrieve withheld savings.

Lebanon is in the midst of a devastating economic crisis that has plunged more than 80 percent of its population into poverty, according to the UN.

Information International, a Beirut-based research consultancy firm, has recently published a study showing a significant rise in registered suicides following a decrease in numbers in 2022.

The average number of suicides from 2013 to 2022 was 143, with the highest, 172, recorded in 2019.

Preliminary investigations revealed that last week’s figures were exacerbated by adverse economic and living conditions.

Mohammed Ibrahim was found dead on Sunday after reportedly shooting himself in his hometown of Wardaniyeh. His employment involved working on the judges’ mutual fund at the Sidon Palace of Justice, and he was the nephew of financial prosecutor Judge Ali Ibrahim.

The previous day, Hussein Al-Abed Mroueh, 40, from the town of Zararia in south Lebanon, was found dead in one of the orchards surrounding his home.

It was clear from statements of his acquaintances that he “had constant economic and financial problems and does not work in a specific field.”

Mousa Al-Shami, a resident of Jarjouaa, also died by suicide and left a recorded message to a friend that was shared on social media, asking him to take care of his children.

Al-Shami said that he could no longer bear the economic burdens and his difficult situation, adding that he could no longer feed his children.

A young man in his 30s strangled his wife and 4-year-old child in the Daraya area in Mount Lebanon governorate in late February, before his death by suicide. He was reportedly unable to pay his debts.

Embrace Lebanon, a nongovernmental organization that bids to administer mental health help, has defined suicide as a process involving psychological, social, biological, cultural, and environmental factors, adding it is a summary of an experience of crises, disasters, violence, abuse, chronic pain, illness or loss, and a sense of isolation.

It stated that suicide rates are high among vulnerable groups that suffer discrimination, and the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.

According to a 2022 survey conducted by the Central Administration of Statistics and the International Labor Organization, the collapse of the national currency, and the state’s inability to carry out the reforms required by the international community, has resulted in the percentage of families receiving income from retirement and other social insurance allowances decreasing from 28 percent to 10 percent.

The survey further noted that 85 percent of families are unable to survive — even for one month — in the event of losing their sources of income.

General Labor Union President Bechara Al-Asmar met Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Monday.

Al-Asmar later said: “The state is looking for revenues, but it should not be at the expense of 90 percent of the population.

“Taxes and fees must be reduced at this difficult stage, but in reality the state has increased taxes and fees, and raised the exchange rate on the central bank’s Sayrafa platform to 70,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, making employees lose on average 56 percent of the value of their incomes.

“All these decisions have not been properly reviewed before implementation.”

Al-Asmar added: “Military and civilian retirees have all become poor. Compensation in the public sector is still at the previous official exchange rate of 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar.

“Significant irregularities in the pricing of commodities have occurred after the state allowed merchants to dollarize prices, and chaos could soon prevail in markets as Ramadan approaches.”


Lebanon cannot become another Gaza, UN chief warns

Updated 5 sec ago
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Lebanon cannot become another Gaza, UN chief warns

  • UN chief's comments come amid escalating tensions between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah
  • Iran-backed Hezbollah has been firing rockets at Israel in solidarity with Palestinian ally Hamas

UNITED NATIONS: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday he is profoundly concerned by escalating tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah and that UN peacekeepers are working to calm the situation and prevent miscalculation.
“One rash move — one miscalculation — could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination,” he told reporters. “Let’s be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza.”
Iran-backed Hezbollah has been firing rockets at Israel in solidarity with its Palestinian ally Hamas since the Gaza war erupted in October, forcing tens of thousands to flee homes in Israel, where political pressure is building for tougher action.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese have also fled their homes following Israeli strikes in south Lebanon.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on Friday that Hezbollah has the capability to defend itself and Lebanon against Israel, warning that “perhaps the time for the self-annihilation of this illegitimate regime has come.”
“Any imprudent decision by the occupying Israeli regime to save itself could plunge the region into a new war,” Iran’s UN mission posted on X.
A UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL, as well as unarmed technical observers known as UNTSO, have long been stationed in southern Lebanon to monitor hostilities along the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel, known as the Blue Line.
“UN peacekeepers are on the ground working to de-escalate tensions and help prevent miscalculation,” Guterres said.
“The world must say loudly and clearly: immediate de-escalation is not only possible – it is essential,” he said. “There is no military solution.”


UN chief warns: Lebanon cannot become another Gaza

Updated 21 June 2024
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UN chief warns: Lebanon cannot become another Gaza

  • “Let’s be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza,” Guterres said
  • Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on Friday that Hezbollah has the capability to defend itself and Lebanon against Israel

UNITED NATIONS: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday he is profoundly concerned by escalating tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah and that UN peacekeepers are working to calm the situation and prevent miscalculation.
“One rash move — one miscalculation — could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination,” he told reporters. “Let’s be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza.”
Iran-backed Hezbollah has been firing rockets at Israel in solidarity with its Palestinian ally Hamas since the Gaza war erupted in October, forcing tens of thousands to flee homes in Israel, where political pressure is building for tougher action.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese have also fled their homes following Israeli strikes in south Lebanon.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on Friday that Hezbollah has the capability to defend itself and Lebanon against Israel, warning that “perhaps the time for the self-annihilation of this illegitimate regime has come.”
“Any imprudent decision by the occupying Israeli regime to save itself could plunge the region into a new war,” Iran’s UN mission posted on X.
A UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL, as well as unarmed technical observers known as UNTSO, have long been stationed in southern Lebanon to monitor hostilities along the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel, known as the Blue Line.
“UN peacekeepers are on the ground working to de-escalate tensions and help prevent miscalculation,” Guterres said.
“The world must say loudly and clearly: immediate de-escalation is not only possible – it is essential,” he said. “There is no military solution.”


Iraqi Kurds mourn loved ones lost on Mediterranean migrant route

Updated 21 June 2024
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Iraqi Kurds mourn loved ones lost on Mediterranean migrant route

  • In unstable Iraq, Kurdish region has always presented image of relative prosperity and stability
  • But autonomous region, like rest of the resource-rich country, also suffers from endemic corruption

IRBIL: Waiting at home in Iraqi Kurdistan, Khadija Hussein holds faint hope of hearing word of further survivors from the shipwrecked vessel that carried 11 of her family members from neighboring Turkiye.
Khadija’s nephew Rebwar, his sister-in-law Mojdeh and both their families were aboard a sailing boat that sank overnight between Sunday and Monday off the Italian coast.
Twelve people were plucked from the water after the boat sank around 120 nautical miles off Calabria, one of whom died after disembarking. More than 60 remain unaccounted for after six bodies were retrieved on Wednesday from the sea by the Italian coast guard.
“What’s clear is that Mojdeh survived. We spoke to her on the phone,” the 54-year-old housewife told AFP.
Mojdeh’s son and another child from the family are also known to have survived — the eight other relatives of Khadija who were onboard are still unaccounted for.
“We have no further details,” Khadija said, a black veil draped over her hair.
On a moldering wall at the entrance to the family home in Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, a poster announces a vigil organized on Wednesday to receive condolences.
Two family photos on display showed the victims, parents and children smiling broadly and dressed in their best clothes. Mojdeh is with her husband Abdel Qader, a cab driver. Her sister Hiro is pictured with her husband Rebwar, a blacksmith.
The two couples had almost changed their minds and decided not to depart.
“They had informed the parents, and everyone was relieved,” Khadija explained, but after an insistent intervention by a people smuggler, the group had a change of heart.
They were supposed to make contact with the family in Irbil when they arrived in Europe to start their new life.
“Hours went by, and we heard nothing more,” Khadija said.
The smuggler, meanwhile, had switched off their phone
News of deaths like these on Europe’s migrant routes has become all too common in the autonomous Kurdish region. The area has been touched by other tragedies, whether on the English Channel or in the frozen forests of Belarus.
In the Irbil schoolyard requisitioned for the vigil, dozens of women huddle together, seated under a tent, all dressed in black, their features drawn, in a silence broken by the cries of children.
At the mosque, the men of the family welcomed dozens of visitors who had come to pay their respects in a reception room, listening to verses from the Qur'an.
Kamal Hamad, Rebwar’s father, explained that he spoke to his son on Wednesday, 12 June, when he was already on the boat. His grief is compounded by incomprehension.
“They knew full well that traveling by sea in this way meant certain death,” the 60-year-old said. “Why leave? In our country it’s better than elsewhere.”
In an unstable Iraq, the Kurdish region has always presented an image of relative prosperity and stability. Property developments, highways, universities and private schools are all under construction.
But the autonomous region, like the rest of the resource-rich country, also suffers from endemic corruption, the cronyism of the ruling clans and an economic stasis that has left its young people disillusioned.
A Gallup poll from 2022 showed two out of every three Kurdish residents thought it would be difficult to find a job.
According to the International Organization for Migration, some 3,155 migrants died or disappeared in the Mediterranean last year.
The president of the Association of Migrants Returned from Europe, Bakr Ali, told AFP that the sailing boat was carrying a “majority of Kurds from Iraq and Iran.”
“There were also a number of Afghans,” he said, adding that the boat had set sail from Bodrum in Turkiye.
Bakhtiar Qader, Rebwar’s cousin, said some 30 people from autonomous Kurdistan were among those traveling on the vessel.
He also doesn’t understand the stubbornness of the two couples. Especially as they “had their own house, car, children and jobs.”
“I, like their parents and friends, tried to talk them out of it,” he said.
“But they wouldn’t listen,” the 40-year-old, wearing a black shirt and a salt-and-pepper beard explained.
“They didn’t know that death was waiting for them.”


German FM to travel to Middle East next week

Updated 21 June 2024
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German FM to travel to Middle East next week

  • On Tuesday, she will hold talks with Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa in Ramallah
  • Baerbock will travel to Lebanon for talks with officials in Beirut, including the migration minister

BERLIN: German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will visit the Middle East next week, Berlin said Friday, as the Gaza war grinds on and fears grow of a wider regional conflict.
Baerbock will travel to Israel Monday immediately after a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
On arrival in Israel, Baerbock — who has visited the region several times since the start of the Israel-Hamas war — will give a speech at the Herzliya Security Conference.
On Tuesday, she will hold talks with Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.
Baerbock will also meet with the Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz in Jerusalem.
Subsequently, Baerbock will travel to Lebanon for talks with officials in Beirut, including the migration minister.
Baerbock’s discussions with officials would focus on “the war in Gaza and the continuing catastrophic humanitarian situation,” as well as “the question of what a future could look like that allows Israelis and Palestinians to live together in safety,” the ministry spokeswoman said.
“In the Palestinian territories, the situation in the West Bank will also be a focus, as will the reform efforts of the Palestinian Authority,” the spokeswoman said.
“The particularly tense and dangerous situation on the border between Israel and Lebanon,” would also be discussed on the trip.
More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory and repeated UN warnings of famine.
The October Hamas attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza has killed at least 37,431 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.


Darfur sees an increase in much needed food aid, but it’s still not enough to avert famine, UN says

Updated 21 June 2024
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Darfur sees an increase in much needed food aid, but it’s still not enough to avert famine, UN says

  • WFP said in an update that five convoys carrying 5,000 tons of food aid have crossed from neighboring Chad into Darfur since the beginning of 2024
  • Famine looms in parts of Sudan, which has been engulfed by violence since April of last year

CAIRO: Families in Sudan’s embattled western Darfur region have finally received an emergency increase in food aid that is much needed to help avert looming famine, the UN food agency said Thursday.
The World Food Program said in an update that five convoys carrying 5,000 tons of food aid have crossed from neighboring Chad into Darfur since the beginning of 2024.
Some aid trucks entered the region on June 10 and completed deliveries in southern Darfur on Thursday, Leni Kinzli, the head of communications at WFP’s Sudan office, told The Associated Press. Distribution was continuing in central and western Darfur.
“The food distribution is an emergency scale-up to avert famine and to get to those people in the highest level of food insecurity to prevent widespread starvation,” Kinzli said. “But, we need to continue to do more and expand access and we’re working on possibly opening new corridors from South Sudan and Egypt and also expanding crossline access from Port Sudan into the Darfur region.”
Famine looms in parts of Sudan, which has been engulfed by violence since April of last year. That’s when tensions between leaders of the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces erupted into intense fighting and spread across the country, including to Darfur.
The latest WFP distribution was part of two aid convoys that made their way to Sudan over the past weeks, carrying enough assistance for more than 245,000 people. The first convoy crossed on May 23 and delivered aid for 117,000 people in South and Central Darfur states.
“We aren’t just delivering for immediate needs but ensuring people have enough to get through the coming months,” said Kinzli. “Especially in those areas that we anticipate will become harder to reach when the road conditions further deteriorate in the rains in the coming weeks.”
In May, the WFP said in a report that at least 1.7 million people are already experiencing emergency levels of hunger in Darfur, including in Al Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state that is besieged by RSF.
Some of the challenges in reaching communities in Darfur include securing access through negotiations, which Kinzli described as “complicated” because many of the checkpoints are controlled by different armed groups. She added that getting aid into places with intense fighting such as Al Fasher is extremely dangerous.
Some WFP aid trucks encountered mechanical issues in the most recent food aid delivery because of deteriorating road conditions. Still, three more WFP convoys carrying food and nutritious commodities are planned to enter Darfur in the coming weeks from Chad through the Tine crossing to help 675,000 people.
Carlos Perea-Milla, with the logistics team for Sudan at the international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger, told the AP that Tine, which leads to North Darfur state, is the only authorized crossing point for UN agencies. The Adre crossing point, occasionally used by humanitarian organizations, provides access to RSF-controlled areas. The UN’s humanitarian agency is pushing for Adre to be used as the other official crossing point to Sudan.