Crisis

Bartering... Last Resort for Poverty-stricken Lebanese Families

Barter groups, born amid the economic crisis, are becoming widely popular on social media networks in Lebanon. "Before, I used to make donations. Today, I am the one who needs help," said one mother, who now relies on the generosity of internet users.

Bartering... Last Resort for Poverty-stricken Lebanese Families

Due to the severe economic crisis, online barter sites are increasing in Lebanon. Joseph Eid / AFP

Born at the onset of the economic crisis in Lebanon, barter groups on social media represent today the last resort for families unable to make ends meet. The soaring inflation and the surging dollar, whose rate hovered at around 9,000 Lebanese Pounds on the black market on July 6, severely reduced the purchasing power of thousands of Lebanese families, especially those with young children. Diapers and milk powder are among the main items requested on Facebook pages devoted to swapping goods, like LibanTroc or LoubnanYoukayed (Lebanon barters).

"A bottle sterilizer in excellent condition to barter urgently for two packs of diapers," writes an unemployed woman, whose husband is also jobless. Speaking to L'Orient-Le Jour on condition of anonymity, the mother of one and a half-year-old twins and a seven-year-old boy, said she had no option left but "begging for stuff" for her children. "At first, I cried every time I couldn't give them milk. Today, I alternate between milk and water in their baby bottles, but I cannot do without diapers." "It is too much injustice. Even the children are not spared," she lamented. Her husband, who worked at a slaughterhouse, has been unemployed for five months. With the rise of the dollar, meat prices skyrocketed, and many slaughterhouses were put out of business. "I can't afford to buy anything for my children, so I am giving bartering a shot. I was able to get them medicines this way, "she said.

In a report published on its Twitter account, the Consultation and Research Institute (CRI), indicated that the price of powdered milk increased in May 2020 by 69% compared to May 2019, while the price of beef increased by 111% compared to the same period in 2019, dry beans by 119% and burghul (cracked wheat) by 120%.

Clothes in exchange for olive oil

Pascale, a 41-year-old mother of a two-year-old boy, finds herself in an equally dramatic situation. Unemployed since the beginning of the year, she also faces financial difficulties since her husband's salary is barely enough to cover some of their expenses. Recently, she exchanged clothes that no longer fit her son for milk and diapers.

A survey carried out in June by the group InfoPro, a company specializing in the publication of economic reports, estimated the unemployment rate in Lebanon at 30%, meaning that 550,000 more individuals became jobless since January 2019.

"I used to sell trinkets, but I had to stop because of the crisis since I could no longer pay the shop's rent," explained Pascale to L'OLJ. "My husband earns two million pounds a month, half of which we use to pay the rent for our apartment. The other half is barely enough to cover the bills," she said. "I used to make donations. Now I am the one who needs help. I have been exchanging goods for four months. I was able to vaccinate my son a few months ago thanks to generous donors' support, but he needs another vaccine in August and I don't know how I am going to manage this time. I lived abroad for many years, returning (to Lebanon) was a mistake," she sighed.

Like Pascale, many internet users are taking to bartering online to obtain foodstuffs or other essentials. For example, some offer to exchange clothes, shoes, or tableware against a cellphone, television or microwave. On one of the barter groups, a woman offered to sell children's clothing items for a certain amount of money to repair her washing machine. Mounir, in his fifties, hopes to be able to exchange his construction equipment for an oven. "I had to sell my oven and my fridge to pay off my debt, but now I am bartering to recover them," he told L' OLJ.

"We have stopped eating meat for a while now. We are only buying the bare necessities," said a 25-year-old woman who offered to swap some of her clothes against food and olive oil." We had some money aside, but we spent it all. I hope someone responds to my post," she said.

Khalil, a man in his sixties, had been on the street for several months as the economic crisis worsened before he received help from LibanTroc volunteers. This English teacher recently started to exchange his services for food. "A hotel in the capital offered me a hot meal every day in exchange for my writing skills," he rejoiced, while still hoping to earn money in cash to pay for the bed he rents at a motel in Beirut.

(This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 7th of July)


Born at the onset of the economic crisis in Lebanon, barter groups on social media represent today the last resort for families unable to make ends meet. The soaring inflation and the surging dollar, whose rate hovered at around 9,000 Lebanese Pounds on the black market on July 6, severely reduced the purchasing power of thousands of Lebanese families, especially those with young children....

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