August 10 2020
“More than 300,000 people are homeless in the Lebanese capital, where the blast – estimated to be about a tenth of the intensity of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb – sent shock waves through the city, destroying hundreds of buildings.” - The Independent, 2020
2020 is nowhere near over and the chaos only seems to be amplifying across the globe. The latest incident that has stirred everyone is the port explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. A two-week state of emergency has been declared for the city as it recoups after a blast that was caused by a welding accident. It started fireworks that lit around 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a disabled vessel at a port warehouse. The disaster that surprised not just the residents, but the international community has killed at least 137 people, injured more than 4000 people and another 100 people have gone missing.
It is not news that the Lebanese bureaucracy has its fair share of corruption, power plays and personal agendas. But this incident is not about the political or military factions in the country but about the first responders and the livelihoods of hundreds that were shattered in just seconds. Thanks to media and the digital world, we can watch and read live updates and tweet as we simply ‘just watch’ as the situation unfolds. It is easy especially now with the immense uncertainty we seem to be entrenched in to come at an impasse - a sense of aloofness when you witness yet another story of pain and misery. We have become onlookers sensitised to catastrophes and sudden outcries which is not an emotion that warrants nurturing. The need of the hour is action and for this empathy is paramount. Every bit of initiative from a simple reshare of the incident to raise awareness to a humble donation makes a difference. Yes, disaster struck, not on our shores but it could very well have been another iteration of the ill-fated Grenfell Tower.
Families have lost their belongings; businesses have been burnt to the ground and loved ones are missing. No doubt a lot more investigation is required to unpack why the explosive material was there in the first place. The incident has happened at a time when Lebanon has been hit hard with an economic crisis while it struggles to manage the toll that the health sector has sustained on account of the pandemic. Notwithstanding, amidst the political noise to decipher the situation, the people caught in the crosshairs should not simply be looked upon as collateral damage. The port that was blown not only appeared to store stocks of grains but has also been reported to be a prime point for food imports which is worrying considering a large amount of the food consumed in Lebanon is imported. In addition, to the disarray, there have been accounts of doctors treating the injured on the streets. In short, the community of Lebanon could very soon be facing a critical food shortage and a health care debacle.
How do we shape up in this grave picture? President Michel Aoun of Lebanon said, “There are no words to describe the catastrophe that hit Beirut last night.” Our solidarity in empowering their voices and call for support is instrumental in not only piquing awareness but also potentially reiterating the need for external aid to the country. This penned down post is simply a reminder to act and contribute however you can. Here are links to a few organisations helping the families and individuals who were affected by the blast and the the medical teams on the ground.
Offre Joie: youth-led, volunteer-led initiative to clean and rebuild homes and provide temporary housing https://www.givingloop.org/offrejoie
Lebanese Red Cross: the main provider of ambulance services in Lebanon https://www.supportlrc.app/donate/
Donner Sang Compter: matching urgent blood requests with volunteer blood donors https://www.givingloop.org/dsc
Lebanese Food Bank: national campaign against hunger https://donate.lebanesefoodbank.org/
Impact Lebanon: transparent, diaspora-led crowdfunder to provide disaster relief https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/lebanon-relief?utm_term=PYp7gXzyD
Arc En Ciel: well-run and enterprising Lebanese development organisation https://www.arcenciel.org/donate/
Beit El Baraka: supporting struggling older people with food, housing and medical supplies https://www.beitelbaraka.org/