Barely two weeks ago on 4th August, one of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions in history rocked the heart of Beirut—the aftermath of which is still percussing through the lives of its citizens.
This year has been an exceptionally difficult year for the majority of people around the world, however the Lebanese have endured even more than most. After 30 years of corruption and nepotism coupled with an earlier 15 years of civil war, 2020 was the year that broke system—and with it, the daily lives of the millions living in Lebanon.
It is unfathomable to understand the pain of a people who have come out of 15 years of civil war only to find their dreams and aspirations stolen by corrupt politicians. This generation of Lebanese will be worse off than their parents were, even during that civil war.
Over the last 30 years, an estimated $300 billion has been stolen from the public coffers through corruption of government officials.
Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars invested into it, electricity remains rationed daily—over three decades after the civil war ended.
While water is abundant in Lebanon (in a region plagued by deserts and arid terrain), the lack of basic infrastructure means that people must still buy in water by truck load simply to meet their daily needs. Additionally, the government is unable to even treat sewage properly, as money hungry politicians have stolen the funding allocated for building the needed treatment plants.
When politicians are not held accountable, the consequences extend well beyond just stolen resources. Lebanon has witnessed a near-catastrophic environmental disaster when more than 100 forest fires spread quickly beyond control in October 2019, only to find that the fire-fighting helicopters—purchased a few years prior with money raised directly from donations by the Lebanese people—were unmaintained and unusable to aid in stopping the destruction. Someone, somewhere stole the $500k needed to maintain them. As a result, the country burned uncontrollably.
Meanwhile, political infighting on who gets how much (yet another example of corruption within the government) had also resulted in cancelled waste collection contracts, allowing garbage to pile up on peoples' doorsteps for 9 whole months.
30 years without any meaningful environmental policies have put Chekka, a small town in north Lebanon, on the map as being one of the most polluted areas in the Mediterranean.
In addition to all of this, Lebanon has taken on somewhere between 1 and 2 million Syrian refugees on top of another 300-400k Palestinian refugees (among others). Lebanon's relative safety, coupled with its religious tolerance in a region full of extremism and conflict, makes it the first port of call for many escaping war and oppression. The result of housing all these refugees has placed a great deal of stress on the economy to say the least.
To put things into perspective, the size of the whole of Lebanon is similar to the geographic size of greater Melbourne, however only 15-20% of the land is livable (mountains and farmland mean that living space is greatly limited). It has a population of 4.5 million with an additional 1-2 million refugees on top of that, though official numbers are unclear as government-issued figures remain purposefully nonexistent.
In October of last year, the Lebanese people took to the streets peacefully demanding change. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated daily, until COVID-19 forced everyone into a lockdown.
Lebanon has been at a breaking point, already struggling to stave off the culmination of political, economic and environmental stresses of the past thirty years. 2020 still had another catastrophic blow to deliver.
The resilience of the Lebanese was again put to the test on the afternoon of 4th of August, when an explosion of inconceivable size occurred at the port of Beirut. The blast was extremely powerful, causing at least 177 deaths, 6,000 injuries, and US$10–15 billion in property damage, leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless.
It's a bleak picture, to be certain—but not hopeless.
Just one day after the explosion, we saw images of Lebanese people coming out to clean up their streets, armed with broom sticks and the resolute will to go on. They came from all areas, all religions, and all levels of income and education. They represented the new, civil, and modern Lebanon their revolution is still calling for.
It is for those people we are raising funds.
Beit El Baraka
With countless people left homeless and traumatized after Beirut’s massive explosion, Beit el Baraka expanded its team to provide an emergency home rehabilitation program that aims to repair as many homes as possible in the devastated areas around the Beirut harbour, and to provide nutritious food and medicine, fix 3011 homes, rehabilitate 108 small shops and refill their shelves with free merchandise for them to sell, and offer medical support and balanced food boxes to thousands. Beit el Baraka also set up a psychological support unit for both adults and children.