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Lebanon PM to declare ‘agricultural disaster zone’ in south

Lebanon's caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati has called for 'immediate assistance' from UN agencies Reuters/Mohamed Azakir
Lebanon's caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati has called for 'immediate assistance' from UN agencies
  • Legacy of war will be ‘felt for years’
  • Land destroyed, 34,000 animals killed
  • 75% of region’s farmers lose income

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati is to declare the south of the country an “agricultural disaster zone” as the conflict in Gaza batters Lebanon’s beleaguered economy.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Mikati called for “immediate assistance” from UN agencies and Lebanon’s international partners to help the country overcome the impact of a border war between Israel and Hamas that is now entering its seventh month.

Mikati said that while the war has destroyed housing and vital infrastructure, “the greatest disaster is in the agricultural sector”. 

Since fighting began on October 8 last year, the prime minister said that 800 hectares of farmland has been “completely damaged”, 34,000 farm animals killed, and 75 percent of local farmers have had their incomes destroyed.

The consequences of the fighting, Mikati warned, will be felt “for years to come”. 

Abbas Hajj Hassan, the agriculture minister, told an Egyptian newspaper last month that the conflict has already cost the Lebanese economy “billions”. Farmers in a region that accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s agricultural output were unable to tend to their land, he said.

A study released by the Lebanese think tank Policy Initiative in February suggested that, should the conflict escalate further, it could wipe out half of Lebanon’s current GDP.

In his speech on Thursday, Mikati said that other impacts of the war included the displacement of over 100,000 people, the closure of 75 schools and the destruction of nine water treatment centres and several healthcare facilities.

According to the Lebanese authorities, 316 people have been killed and 909 injured during six months of fighting.

The conflict has also scuppered Lebanon’s chances of recording its first year of economic growth since a crisis in 2019 that resulted in the collapse of local banks and the default on international debt. 

The World Bank had expected Lebanon’s GDP to grow by a modest 0.2 percent in 2023 but revised this figure down. It is yet to announce growth forecasts for 2024, saying that the current situation remains too unpredictable. 

Figures released last month suggested that inbound tourism has been badly affected by the conflict, albeit less than many had predicted.

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