Image copyright AFP Image caption Egyptian milk and medicine prices have shot up, with poor pay compounding the situation
The Lebanese government’s inability to work out a deal to unblock milk and medicine supplies has left the public concerned and angry.
With only a few exceptions, medicine and milk supplies were only granted permission to enter the country from the European Union on Friday after a four-month blockade.
The value of the Lebanese pound has fallen dramatically as a result, wiping out the benefits of the deal.
A senior EU official has said the European Union needs to know what’s going on.
Amid economic problems, the government in Beirut and the Islamist militant group Hezbollah stopped the drugs entering the country in December in a dispute that was blamed for a spike in food prices and severe shortages.
On the supply side, medicines had been halted from entering the country, and on the markets – the only route remaining for the medicine to reach the public – prices of both food and medicine have shot up.
Both sides have blamed each other in recent weeks over the unprecedented scarcity of medicine.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Frustration has spilled into the streets
Following weeks of talk, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri decided to fly to Rome on Saturday in a bid to reach a deal to restart medicine shipments.
But tensions on both sides are running high and Mr Hariri’s visit has been met with anger and animosity.
While Hezbollah leaders, fearing public anger, had kept their political parties’ mouthpieces out of the public debate over medicine and milk, the response from the public and local authorities has been fierce.
In the southern city of Sidon, a supermarket owner threatened to sack shoppers if they joined the public protests on Friday.
In Beirut, protests took place in what is a Hezbollah stronghold. As part of the protests, hundreds of people laid on the ground while imams chanted slogans in support of protesters.
A prominent Lebanese cleric who has said he didn’t think the blockade was necessary, made an impassioned address to protestors on Friday.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Hariri responded by saying he felt the complaints of ordinary people were legitimate.
On the currency, Mr Hariri told lawmakers in parliament that he had spoken with the European Union on Saturday to “clear up rumours” about how much the current deal would cost the country and the eurozone.
“We are committed to all treaties, but we want to make sure these treaties are being observed,” he said.
Image copyright EPA Image caption Medicines and milk supplies were only allowed into the country on Friday
However, US and European officials said the Lebanese government needs to be held accountable if it believed that its citizens were suffering.
US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said he had asked the European Union to make sure that it was fully enforcing the deal.
“I put the onus squarely on the Lebanese government,” he said, adding that US officials should have been better informed of what is going on.