Great Famine of Mount Lebanon

Great Famine of Mount Lebanon
مجاعة لبنان
Mount Lebanon Great Famine.jpg
Starving man and children in Mount Lebanon
CountryMount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, Ottoman Empire, modern day Lebanon
LocationMount Lebanon
Total deathsEst. 200,000
Impact on demographicspopulation of 400,000 declined by 50%

The Great Famine of Mount Lebanon (1915–1918) (Arabic: مجاعة لبنان‎; Turkish: Lübnan Dağı'nın Büyük Kıtlığı) was a period of mass starvation during World War I that resulted in 200,000 deaths.[1]

Allied forces blockaded the Eastern Mediterranean, as they had done with the German Empire in Europe, in order to stranglehold the economy with the knowledge that it may lead to a profound impact on civilians in the region.[2] The situation was exacerbated by Jamal Pasha, commander of the Fourth Army of the Ottoman Empire, who barred crops from neighboring Syria from entering Mount Lebanon.[3] Additionally, a swarm of locusts devoured remaining crops,[4][3] creating a famine that led to the deaths of half of the population of the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, a semi-autonomous subdivision of the Ottoman Empire and the precursor of modern-day Lebanon.


The Mutasarrifate of Mount Lebanon was created in 1861 as a semi-autonomous subdivision of the Ottoman Empire following the 1860 Lebanon conflict that affronted the Maronite and Melkite Greek Catholic Christians and the Druze of the mountain.[5][6] Mount Lebanon's economy relied heavily on sericulture; raw silk was processed in looms and finished goods were shipped to the European market.[4]


The Ottoman alliance with the Central Powers caused the Entente Powers to block international trade routes in order to hinder Ottoman supply. The blockade damaged Mount Lebanon's silk trade, a backbone of the economy. Growing crops was already a challenge in the mountainous region and the inhabitants relied on food imports from the adjacent Bekaa Valley and Syria. To counter the Allied blockade, the Ottomans adopted a severe policy of acquisition by which all food supplies were prioritized for the army.[4] Jamal Pasha, commander of the Fourth Army of the Ottoman Empire in Syria, barred crops from entering Mount Lebanon.[3] Locust infestations laid waste to the remaining crops.[4][3] The crisis further exacerbated a black market run by well-connected usurers.[7]