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Lebanon’s Economic Crises Affect Fertility Rates

Lebanon’s Economic Crises Affect Fertility Rates

Sunday, 28 November, 2021 - 11:30
A pharmacy employee holds a box of medication in Beirut, Lebanon, May 28, 2021. (Reuters)

Lebanese mother, Hiyam, in her twenties, preferred to undergo an abortion rather than having a second child in a country torn apart by crises, as she told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Despite what she described as a “rational” decision, she expressed her “deep sadness and fear of violating the Sharia.”

But she continued with a series of questions: “How will we secure milk, diapers, and medicines? How will we be able to afford the expenses of two children? And before all that, in which hospital will I deliver the baby and at what cost?”

While no official statistics indicate the number of abortions currently taking place in Lebanon, as such operations are usually kept secret, Hiyam said that the decision was not easy, and she always hoped that her little daughter would have a brother or sister.

“But a crime that's greater than abortion is to bring a helpless child into a country where we do not know from where the strikes will come,” she added.

Stressing that her doctor advised her not to resort to this option, Hiyam said: “We know more about our financial capabilities, and we can hardly secure milk and diapers for my young daughter... We refuse to be unfair with our two children!”

Lebanon has been rocked by a severe economic collapse since 2019, the worst in decades. Its repercussions did not exclude any aspect of the life of the Lebanese citizens, affecting vital needs of food, water, fuel, medicine and hospitalization.

As a result of this collapse, many Lebanese are reluctant to take the step of having children, fearing that this would increase their daily suffering amid the high prices of the needs of newborns on one hand and the severe shortage of medications and vaccines on the other.

The price of a box of infant formula increased from LBP 12,000 to LBP 100,000, while the price of diapers, according to quality, now ranges from LBP 150,000 to LBP 250,000. With the lifting of government subsidies, the prices of medicine and vaccinations for children, if found, have also soared.

Sabine, 36, who has been married for four years, told Asharq Al-Awsat that her dream of motherhood “may have evaporated with all the crises we are witnessing in Lebanon.”

She said that she got married in 2018, and she and her husband chose to postpone the step of having children for two years to be able to pay off the debts of the wedding ceremony and home furniture and also enjoy life before bearing a great responsibility.

Sabine and her husband are looking for a job in an Arab country or for emigration to a European country “to start a better life and a suitable environment for raising children.”

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Researcher at Information International Mohammad Shamseddine said that 92,957 childbirths were registered in Lebanon in 2018, compared to 86,584 in 2019. The number continued to decline in 2020 and reached 74,049.

Although the numbers for 2021 are not final yet, Shamseddine expects an additional decrease in the number of births in Lebanon, which he said will not exceed 60,000.

Several reasons led to this decline, he explained, including the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the severe economic crisis.

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