Beirut Stay Strong: The Aftermath

“My love run run ru….” But destiny had other plans and she was claimed as bride in heaven.

She responded to the call of duty, grabbed her medical kit, hopped into the vehicles alongside with her fellow paramedics and had her last call with her fiancé. Later they were in the middle of the fire rage that turned out to be one of the biggest blasts in modern history.

August 4, 2020; it took a flame and tons of ammonium nitrate to declare our beloved Beirut a “Disastrous City”. The home for two million citizens witnessed a massive explosion that sent a colossal cloud to the skies. Its blast wave, described as one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in the world was felt across the shores of Cyprus.

Families got separated, approximately 200 people were killed, and 300,000 citizens were displaced, leaving thousands of them homeless under the mercy of the winter elements with shattered hopes and walls.

Hospitals, part of a struggling medical sector got overwhelmed with more than 6500 wounded and a crippling lack of supplies. Nearly all hospitals within a 15 km radius were heavily damaged from the explosion, however the medical team turned the streets into emergency medical units and performed their duties as the heroes that they are.

Beirut lost part of its cultural identity as most of the affected streets which were known for their unique architecture and historical sites. Sites that belonged to different eras that had survived a number of wars and struggles, were weakened and destroyed by the blast.

As if that wasn’t enough, the tragedy took place while Lebanon was facing an ongoing financial crises that took over the Lebanese economy to result negative economic indicators; enormous increase in poverty rates and an extreme depreciation of the local currency. An economic crises in the middle of the global pandemic of COVID-19 where all was amplified by the blast, a vulnerable infrastructure, and a failing state. 

According to the ESCWA, 55% of the population were trapped in poverty and struggling to secure the basic needs. Extreme poverty has increased from 8% in 2019 to 23% in 2020, with an expectation of an additional increase in the coming years.

Despite of the pandemic, chaos, and challenges, the international community, the local organization, and individuals lead by their value of humanity rose to the aid of Lebanon in its unfortunate event.

Beirut stay strong initiative was launched as a disaster aid relief in response to the blast as a collaboration between Rotaract Mediterranean (Represented by Astrid Durand-Viel) and District 2452 (Represented by Jelena Cvetkovic), in order to contribute to rebuilding the city. Rotaract Lebanon which consists of 25 active clubs, immediately targeted the field in a successful attempt to help the affected people and collaborating with multiple NGO’s to optimize the impact.

“When we first went to the streets we did not know what to expect, they amount of damages and the type of needs that we will encounter. After few days of scouting and realizing the basic necessities that were required, the dilemma became from where to start especially with the lack of a source of information (the families that were affected), financial resources, material and government support. Later on, following the development of the strategy and the needed database, the main challenge was being able to implement as immediate as possible and being able to find an implementing partner and contractor to excuse and support as much people as possible with the limited resources we had” said Deputy District Rotaract Representative RY 20-21 and District Rotaract Representative RY 21-22 Yasmina AL Assi.

Beirut Stay Strong initiative that aimed to raise awareness and to contribute to the recovery of the city through the platform resulted in raising 30,110 $ that went to renovating around 35 affected houses.

“When we heard about what happened, the team didn’t hesitated a single second to devote their days and nights to help, all Rotaract Mediterranean family felt stroked by this terrible disaster. After 10 months and overcoming all the difficulties for this project from legal to Covid-19 slowing the work on field, we are proud to say we helped 35 families, that couldn’t afford to repair their housing, to live in their homes again. Leaving these moment, we really feel the reason why we are in Rotaract” said the President of Rotaract Mediterranean RY 20-21 Astrid Durand-Viel.

Moreover, Lebanese rotaractors were addressing the needs of people affected by the explosion and launched “AID Drive” an ongoing provision of basic needs and necessities for 1800 family; in addition to a contribution to a Global Grant in collaboration with Rotary Clubs of Lebanon to reconstruct the Intensive care unit in Rosary hospital.

Fellowship through Service, a motto that changed many lives around the globe as it did for many people in Beirut. The compassion and support we received from Rotarian and Rotaract family is beyond words to describe.

“This campaign is a strong example on how Rotaractors come together in times of need. Directly after the blast, Rotaractors from around the world, from the 5 different continents, contacted us to offer support! This outstanding support helped us, Lebanese Rotaractors, overcome emotionally this tragedy” said Jad Salame, Vice president RY 20-21 and president RY21-22 of Rotaract Mediterranean Respectively.

Like a phoenix, The City that was destroyed 8 times will once more rise from its ashes, and when all of this passes, we shall walk the streets of Beirut with Rotaractors from around the world to celebrate hope, renewal, life, solitude, and grace.

Twelve months later and we are still hoping that justice will prevail. Sahar Fares, Joe Noun, Joe Bou Saab, Ralph Mallahi, Charbel and Najib Hitti, Charbel Karam, Rami Kaaki, Elie Khouzami, and Mithal Hawa… Names to be remembered not to be forgotten… Martyrs of duty, victims of a deteriorated regime.

Wael Merhi

Medtimes Journalist

(Rotaract Club of Aley, Dist. 2452)


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