Lebanon's soul has been eviscerated by its financial crisis. Not even the children want to play

A father and son walk through a fish market lit by power from a generator in Beirut, Lebanon, in September.

Beirut, Lebanon (CNN)I'm crouched down in front of a 10-year-old boy sitting hunched over himself in the Beirut office of my charity INARA, the International Network for Aid, Relief and Assistance. His dark brown eyes, fringed with impossibly long eyelashes, peer over his facemask.

He shakes his head. He doesn't want to join the other children decorating the tree we've brought in.
"Why not?" I ask.
    "Maali khili'" he responds -- he doesn't have the energy for it.
      "He's always like this" his father explains, pulling him in closer and planting a gentle kiss on his forehead.
      The child starts to cry big, fat, silent tears.
      I try again to engage him. "What can we do to make you smile?" I ask.
        "What do you like to do?"
        His father, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon, scrawls wishes on holiday decorations. "I want health," he writes on one A-4 paper. "I want to feel safe."
        "Here you do it. Hold the pencil," he says, placing a pencil in his son's hand. The boy doesn't even wrap his fingers around it. It clatters to the ground.
        He's the first child in INARA, which helps war-wounded children, who can't be coaxed into engaging, who refuses to even eat a chocolate cake that's in front of him.
        One of INARA's children places a decoration she made with her holiday wishes written on it onto a Christmas tree.
        A little later, the father and I move to another room. The father speaks breathlessly for 45 minutes. It all tumbles out: How he's struggling to keep his family healthy and fed. He can't keep up. He can't win. He just watches his children fade before his eyes.
        "They are disappearing in front of me and I don't know what to do."
        This is one family in a nation that is filled with drowning souls. The Syrian refugee population here was always downtrodden. But they have been plunged into new depths, with 99% of Syrian refugee households without enough food, according to the United Nations. The Lebanese have fared better but not by much -- the poverty rate in the country is around 80%.

        'They've destroyed us'

        Silos of wheat, barley and corn stored at the Port of Beirut were destroyed by the explosion.
        Beirut feels both familiar and utterly foreign. I've been coming in and out of here since 2003 and was based here from 2010 to 2014. In the Beirut of today, people go through the motions and the energy that once made the city vibrant has dissipated continuously since the start of a financial catastrophe that began in October 2019. It once had an energy of being alive, but now that's all gone.
        I grab a cab to meet a friend for dinner. The streets seem to be more crowded with beggars than with pedestrians.
        "They've destroyed us. I swear people are thinking of suicide," the cab driver says. He's talking to me but also just to himself.
        He's referring to the country's political elite. These days, they are referred to as "thieves," "criminals" and "killers" who have decimated the country's wealth, leaving it writhing in pain and shock, barely able to process its new reality.
        "You know the other day I bought labneh (a kind of Arabic cream cheese) and white cheese, not the spicy one, that's too expensive," he says. "I bought a total of four things at the shop, and it cost me the same as what I used to pay to fill my whole fridge."