On August 4th, the capital of Lebanon, Beirut, was faced with a catastrophic blast that killed nearly 135 people and injured more than 5000 others. As search and rescue missions continue, the number of deaths is expected to rise in the coming days.

The massive explosion, that was even felt 150 miles away in Cyprus, ripped apart the city of Beirut, displacing as much as 300,000 people from their homes, destroying many buildings in its wake, including four hospitals that are now working at maximum capacity.

In a statement made by Prime Minister Hasan Diab, it was revealed that the reason behind the calamity was 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, an explosive that had been stored in a warehouse at Beirut’s port for the last six years, without any security measures being taken to prevent such disasters. It was reported that in early 2020, a team had inspected the warehouse and had warned authorities that the explosives can “blow up all of Beirut”, however, no action was taken.

The devastation that the Lebanese are now facing is one more crisis that has piled on the already dire situation of the country. 

Known as the October Revolution by many, the people of Lebanon were forced to take the streets in a series of civil protests in late 2019 in opposition to the politically corrupt government of the country. Ruling under a sectarian system, Lebanon has been at the mercy of corrupt politicians who have little regard for the development of the country since its inception in 1943. 

Since the political system of the country divides the positions according to different sects, it renders the people in power incapable of coming to cohesive decisions when dealing with national challenges, leaving the state of the country in shambles. 

The protests originated after collective crises occurred one after the other, but most importantly began as an objection to the planned taxes imposed on internet calling services such as Whatsapp, an application that most opted for because of the expensive regular phone services.

But what started as an opposition to regressive taxes, soon became a protest against the many hardships the Lebanese have been coping with for decades, two of them being their electric and water shortages.

Even before the detonation in Beirut ensued, the Lebanese had been forced to live their lives in the dark. The country has not had stable electricity for years, with electric cuts ranging from 3-17 hours per day. People who can afford to pay the expensive bills for generators, turn to them when power cuts happen. However, owning and running private generators is illegal, so the suppliers, known as the “generator mafia”, require political cover to continue with their businesses.

The water supply and sewerage system in Lebanon are also no better. With Syria under war for the past several years, many Syrian refugees found solace in the many cities of Lebanon. With millions of Syrians seeking sanctuary, it has put pressure on the demand for water in the country with little to go about. However, Lebanon’s water crisis had existed long before the Syrians arrived. Due to a lack of investments in the water infrastructure across cities, the constant political tensions, and “unregulated urban planning”, the country finds it hard to provide good, clean, and enough water to its people.

Owing all of this to improper governance, the Lebanese had had enough of their struggles and were left with no choice but to demand a change in the sectarian political system of Lebanon for the betterment of their country. 

 

With rising prices of food and oil, and unemployment leaving people with zero money to even afford basic necessities, many Lebanese were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The middle-class workers were hit hard, but the situation impacted the lower income class twice as much. For instance, many domestic workers were let go, many of whom were migrants, because their employers could no longer afford to pay their already minimum wage salaries.

Keeping the current situation in mind, if unemployment persists in the country, it is expected that the poverty rate could increase to as much as 80 percent across the population.

The horrid situation of Lebanon aggravated further when it was hit with COVID-19. Although protests seized once the pandemic took over, they were rekindled once again due to horrible living conditions. 

With Lebanon dealing with the worst possible financial crisis that it has seen, the country has also seen a massive dollar shortage which has reduced the value of the Lebanese pound to about 50 percent in the past few months.

As many banking systems attempted to stay afloat, they had restricted the withdrawal of the U.S dollar and the Lebanese pound. The Lebanese Central Bank limited withdrawal to $1000 per week in November 2019 which was later reduced further to only a few hundred. However, many other banks had set their own curtailments according to the size of an individual’s account. 

With an increase in food prices and limited money to afford anything, “hunger crimes” became a daily routine in Lebanon. The country was already dealing with a food crisis but with its port in Beirut destroyed, which was the main source of Lebanon’s food supply, the country is seeing a food shortage like no other.

With its economy crippled and a global pandemic weighing over their heads, the explosion at Beirut could not have come at a worst possible time. With hundreds of thousands of people exposed to an even harsher life than before, Lebanon is in great need of external support.

Here are a few ways that you can help Lebanon and its people:

Donate

If you would like to make even a small contribution that can aid Lebanon in this difficult situation, following are a few organizations that you can donate to:

Volunteer to help

If you are living in Lebanon, you can always physically volunteer at organizations that are needing extra help, for instance, the Lebanese Red Cross or many of the local NGOs in Beirut. Another way that you can also help is by donating blood to those who are in urgent need of it.

Educate yourself and others

Although people were quick to share videos and images of the explosion, many are still not aware of the country’s situation prior to the incident. In order to take initiative, it is also important to gain knowledge of Lebanon’s past and the political situation that led to the country’s turmoil. This means that you need to educate yourself on what caused the overlapping crises to understand why and how the people of Lebanon have been suffering and continue to do so.

It is also imperative to spread information on the subject as much as possible so more people can come forward to assist Lebanon in its time of need. If you encounter someone who is unaware of the situation, forward your knowledge to them. Spreading awareness is part of the process and even if it is done on a smaller scale, it still makes a difference.


https://thetempest.co/?p=151002
Tayyaba Rehman

By Tayyaba Rehman

Editorial Fellow