BEIRUT, May 1 (Xinhua) -- With a smile on her face, Souad Abu Alayyan, a housewife in southern Lebanon, received a sum of 250 U.S. dollars transferred online as a holiday gift from her brother who trades in furniture in Australia.
This allowed Souad to purchase her and her family's needs ahead of Eid al-Fitr, a festival of breaking the fast that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
"We were able to buy some food and clothes with this money, without which our situation would have been embarrassing," said the young woman, who has seen the salaries of her six-member family devalued by over 90 percent amid the current economic crisis.
Souad said the remittances from expatriates have become the main source of income for many families in Lebanon, especially during holidays and on social occasions.
"We could not afford our needs by relying on our salaries paid in local currency. We need the fresh dollars from our relatives to cover necessities as prices of different items increased by tenfold at least," she explained.
Lebanon has been going through an unprecedented financial crisis amid a shortage of U.S. dollars, leading to the collapse of the local currency.
Moreover, the banks place heavy restrictions on withdrawing U.S. dollars and Lebanese pounds, depriving the majority of the population of their savings.
In the light of the current crisis, many families in Lebanon have become reliant on remittances sent by their family members and relatives from foreign countries.
A recent study released by Information International, a research center in Lebanon, indicated that the remittances of about 1.3 million Lebanese expatriates to their families exceed 120 million dollars a month.
"Around 220,000 families benefit from these remittances on a monthly basis, which constitute one of the most important factors of resilience for many Lebanese families facing the economic crisis," the center said.
Rabih al-Saadi, a man in his 50s who was forced to quit his job at a dairy factory in southern Lebanon amid the economic collapse, waits eagerly for a monthly transfer from his brother working in Saudi Arabia.
"This monthly payment is a savior for my family, especially that my children expect to buy some clothes for the Eid," he said.
"If it wasn't for my brother's support, my family would go hungry ... Our situation in Lebanon is tragic," al-Saadi lamented.
Rasha Da'amoush, a saleswoman at a clothes shop in the capital Beirut, waits every month for a sum of 300 dollars from her brother, who works as a chef in Dubai, to support her two children.
"My salary was equivalent to 1,000 dollars ahead of the crisis. This amount is now equivalent to about 55 dollars. It's impossible to make ends meet with such an income," said the widow who lost her husband in a car accident.
Lebanon's financial crisis was described by the World Bank as the worst since the 19th century. Lebanese experts blame it on the failed policies by successive governments, which ran up a public debt of over 95 billion dollars.
Lebanon is currently in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to unlock billions of dollars to save the country from its collapse. ■