With the caretaker government not discussing the removal of subsidies, Lebanese are struggling to cope with a massive shortage of gasoline to medicines.
Lebanese drug importers said they have used up hundreds of essential drugs and warned that if the capital-strained central bank does not unfreeze funds, there will be further shortages.
Lebanese are struggling to cope with massive shortages ranging from gasoline to medicines because the caretaker government is discussing the cancellation of subsidies that it no longer can afford in the context of what the World Bank calls one of the world’s worst financial crises since the 1850s.
The local currency has depreciated by more than 90% on the black market, but the central bank has been providing importers with U.S. dollars at a more favorable official exchange rate to cover most of the cost of imported medicines.
The Pharmaceutical Importers Association said in a statement on Sunday that the import of medicines has “almost completely stopped in the past month.”
“The stocks of hundreds of drugs used by importing companies to treat chronic and incurable diseases have been exhausted,” it warned. “If we cannot resume imports as soon as possible, hundreds of people will run out by July.”
The consortium stated that the central bank has not fulfilled its promises to pay overseas suppliers in US dollars, which have owed more than 600 million US dollars since December last year, and importers cannot obtain new credit lines.
Syndicate leader Karim Gebala told AFP that some drugs for treating heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis are out of stock.
He warned that if no measures are taken, “the situation will be catastrophic by the end of July” and that “hundreds of thousands of patients” will not be able to receive medication.
On Thursday, President Michel Aoun stated that he, the outgoing minister and the governor of the central bank have agreed to “continue to subsidize the medicines and medical supplies selected by the Ministry of Health based on priorities”.
The government resigned after the deadly port bombing on August 4 last year, but since then, the severely divided political class has failed to reach an agreement on a new cabinet to get the country out of crisis.