Supporting Lebanese Victims: A decimated capital as the economy collapses
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;
Story

Supporting Lebanese Victims: A decimated capital as the economy collapses

Stories/773 , Issues/Violence
Sydney NSW
9th Aug 2020
 Supporting Lebanese Victims: A decimated capital as the economy collapses
With inflation sky-high and prices for basic necessities almost doubling, this catastrophe could not have come at a worse time.

Like many Lebanese Australians, I woke up to the news of an explosion in Beirut on Thursday morning, August 5. It was seven am and I was still in bed. 

My heart sank when I saw the images and casualty numbers. I was apprehended with a sense of panic that jolted me up into the cold Canberra morning. My mind tried to make sense of what had happened as my foreboding spurred me on. I scrolled the news sites and Lebanese media and was met with images of rubble and blood. Some were dead, others dazed as they emerged in dust, their faces dripping in red as people rushed to help the injured.  

Lebanon is no stranger to destruction and death. A brutal civil war that lasted more than 15 years wrought enough suffering and devastation to scar generations of Lebanese. My parents were lucky enough to have left the country to come to Australia in the 1970s, many of their extended families, however, remained as the country deteriorated further and the state became more corrupted driven by a Western-backed sectarian agenda and capitalist clientelism, in effect sending the mass population into poverty and enriching a select few ruling elites. 

Of course, it initially crossed my mind that the explosion was an attack. Lebanon is technically at war with Israel, and the spectre of war always looms large over this small strip of land on the Eastern Mediterranean. But as more information started to filter through the cacophony of news,  it started to look more like government negligence. The storage of highly explosive ammonium nitrate at a port surrounded by a large population for over six years speaks of the magnitude and failures of a government unable to provide necessary safety measures. 

And now over 150 people have lost their lives and thousands are injured. It is estimated that half of Beirut has been damaged, dislodged, or uprooted with hundreds of thousands of Lebanese now homeless. With a failing economy and massive amounts of public debt, the government will struggle to provide basic care and food to the displaced thousands, let alone rebuild essential port services that provide staples like wheat and grain to the country. Some estimates suggest that Lebanon has less than one month’s worth of stock. 

Images of the actual devastation are still coming through on my social media feeds, some of them by Lebanese people living in Beirut—upturned cars, fallen facades, broken windows, and streets littered with mangled metal and crushed stone. Many in Lebanon have taken it upon themselves to begin the clean-up, brooms in hand, and a spirit of community to rebuild. It feels like the Lebanese have been rebuilding for the last 30 plus years, generations of Lebanese have known nothing but constant peril and bleak futures. 

And let’s not forget the pandemic wreaking havoc across the globe. Only days ago, the Lebanese Red Cross (LRC) reported two COVID-19 cases amongst its medical volunteers which have sent many other volunteers into quarantine at a time when more hands are needed to respond to the crises in Lebanon. The LRC has been one of the most active response teams assisting in evacuation, medical and psychological care, and providing temporary shelter to many affected Lebanese. They are currently accepting donations to assist the victims of the blast.

There are many ways that you can donate and assist the victims. Impact Lebanon is an NGO that has set up a disaster relief fund and promotes change and accountability through activism and human rights initiatives. You can find more information about their crowdfunding here.

Baytana Baytak was initially set to house health workers during Covid19 and are now using their resources to house the displaced and homeless. 

Lebanese Food Bank is bringing much-needed food products to the affected population and seeks to more broadly eliminate hunger in the country. You can donate here.

Being part of the Lebanese diaspora, it is difficult seeing your parent’s country of origin fall apart. It strikes very close to your identity and culture and the failures feel like personal ones. But there is hope in collective action and the Lebanese people are a resilient people. With inflation sky-high and prices for basic necessities almost doubling, this catastrophe could not have come at a worse time. But the global response and generosity of ordinary people has been heartening to see. And Lebanon will rebuild. 

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