Yesterday, the world finally saw Lebanon through the eyes of its people: in pain and struggling. In the past year alone, Lebanon has experienced social/political uprisings, an economic crisis, extreme poverty and the repercussions of decades of political corruption. It took a colossal explosion of ammonium nitrate at Lebanon’s main port in Beirut for the media to cover Lebanon’s struggles and for the world to acknowledge decades of wars, corruption and outside interference the Lebanese people have endured. So far, 135 people have died, 5,000 people are injured, at least 300,000 people have been displaced from their homes, many are still searching for missing family members and four hospitals in Beirut are too damaged to admit patients, leaving the Lebanese and its diaspora broken by yet another tragedy. The most devastating part of the explosion is that Lebanon is yet to bear the brunt of it.
Prior to the explosion, Lebanon could be characterized as a country with several massive crises unfolding at once, with near-zero public trust in government entities to come to the rescue. For years, the fate of the Lebanese people has been at the hands of the corrupt sectarian government officials who prioritized their own greed over the people of Lebanon, leaving the country without a stable economy, stable electricity, waste management services and food security.
In October 2019, a demonstration of protests erupted, demanding much needed political and social reform. The toppling of Lebanon’s broken economic system continues to fuel the Lebanese “thawra” (revolution). The Lebanese currency crashing, making it practically worth nothing, and skyrocketing prices of basic necessities, coupled with the effects of COVID-19 has left over 45 percent of Lebanon’s population living below the poverty line and 49 percent food insecure. Lebanon’s economy relies heavily on imports and now, during Lebanon’s worst economic crisis, a crater bigger than a football field now sits on what was Lebanon’s largest port.
Without electricity, the Lebanese people were faced with the daunting task of searching for their loved ones during the dark of night with only voices and flashlights to guide them. Medical professionals were forced to use phone flashlights when treating patients and hospitals pleaded to turn the lights on. The pandemic has worsened due to the destruction of medical infrastructure; the Lebanese hospitals were on their last leg and the explosion has left them on their knees.
As many questions remain, like who or what was the direct cause of the explosion, one thing holds true: The Lebanese people are resilient. The Lebanese resilience has carried Lebanon through a 15-year civil war, conflict with Israel and political corruption. Yesterday and today, lines of Lebanese people willing to donate blood form outside hospitals, search teams form to look for hundreds of missing people and the Lebanese people, regardless of faith, unify to help each other. Although the resilience of the Lebanese people is powerful, it should be time that they no longer have to be resilient just for everyday survival. The Lebanese people deserve to live free of the fear of tomorrow that corruption, poverty and war inflicts on them.
Links to donate:
The Lebanese Red Cross: A nonprofit directly aiding those who have been affected by the explosion.
Zaman International: a nonprofit that is working with the International Medical Corps to provide relief in Lebanon. For every $1 donated, the International Medical Corps will match it with $30.
Impact Lebanon: a nonprofit that supports first responders and people who have been affected by the explosion.
Maya Kadouh can be reached at email@example.com.