‘Long-term recovery effort’: How Canadian organizations are helping in Beirut

Canadian organizations are working around the clock in Lebanon to help those affected by the devastating explosion which rocked the country’s capital of Beirut earlier this month.

The blast, which devastated a large portion of the city on Aug. 4, left more than 200 dead and over 6,000 injured.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced two Canadians were among those killed in the blast.

Read more: Canada names new ambassador to Lebanon amid aftermath from Beirut explosion

Preliminary estimates suggest around 300,000 people have been displaced by the explosions. Other key infrastructure, including many health facilities and hospitals, were left inoperable.

Following the explosion, the Canadian government announced an initial $5 million in aid for Lebanon.

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Days later, the government announced the creation of the Lebanon Matching Fund, saying it would match every dollar donated by Canadians to the Humanitarian Coalition and its members between Aug. 4 and Aug. 24, up to a maximum total of $5 million.

The federal government has now said it will spend a total of $30 million to help in the recovery efforts.

Richard Morgan, executive director of the Humanitarian Coalition, said the donations collected are distributed to the coalition’s member groups to their partners on the ground.

“Many of our member agencies have been involved in Lebanon for decades,” he said.

According to Morgan, while the Humanitarian Coalition co-ordinates with the Lebanese government, none of the funding goes through the government.

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“It’s all going through long-term trusted partners on the ground,” he explained.

Read more: Federal government to match Canadian donations to Lebanon after Beirut explosions

He said the money is being allocated so the immediate needs of those impacted by the blast are met.This includes providing food, shelter, water and acute medical care, he said.But Morgan said there is also a “significant amount” of trauma and mental health support needed as well.

Beirut explosion: Canada launches Lebanon Matching Fund to assist devastated city

Beirut explosion: Canada launches Lebanon Matching Fund to assist devastated city
He said there is also need to provide specialized care to those who lost limbs in the blast, and for children who have been traumatized by the explosion.“We’ve heard that some of the children have been so traumatized by the blast that some haven’t been able to sleep or speak for a week,” he said. “So they need specialized care.”

Islamic Relief Canada is one member of the Humanitarian Coalition.

Reyhana Patel, head of external relations at Islamic Relief Canada, said right now the team is working hard to try to meet the immediate needs of those injured or displaced in the city.

According to Patel, three members of Islamic Relief Canada arrived in Beirut on Monday to provide assistance.

But she said Islamic Relief Lebanon — which employs around 40 people — has been working on the ground in the city since the blast occurred.

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Read more: Canada to provide $5M to Lebanon after deadly blasts: Champagne

“We’re providing a range of things from … shelters, food baskets, hot meals, sanitary items (and) household items,” she explained.

According to Patel, the team is also helping to clean rubble from the streets, and is assisting in repairing damage that was done to water and sanitation facilities.

She said they are also trying to meet the urgent and growing need for medical supplies.

Items like walkers and wheelchairs are desperately needed for those who were injured in the blast, Patel explained.

Long term recovery

But Patel said it is going to take to take a “long-term recovery effort” to repair the damage in Beirut.

She said those affected by the explosion have “lost everything.”

“So you’re looking at providing kind of sustainable shelter programs, also food assistance measures and then trying to ramp the health care system as much as we can,” she said.

Patel said food insecurity is a very real concern in Beirut now that the city’s main port has been destroyed.

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Beirut explosion: International development minister says Canadian government ‘working around the clock to provide assistance’

Beirut explosion: International development minister says Canadian government ‘working around the clock to provide assistance’

So essentially, food shortages are going to happen,” she said. “Because they won’t be able to have those food imports coming in.”

She said other infrastructure destroyed in the blast will also need to be rebuilt — something that will take time.

Morgan echoed Patel’s remarks, adding that the long-term support for Lebanon will be needed.

He said Lebanon was in a “really challenging state” even before the blast took place.

“Political insecurity, economic insecurity with hyper inflation, growing food insecurity as people were unable to afford basics of life,” he said, pointing to some of those challenges. 

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Morgan said Lebanon also hosts the highest per-capita number of Syrian refugees — between 1.5-2 million.

“So they had many issues they were facing, and then on top of that COVID,” he said.

“So the ripple effect of the blast, both metaphorically and literally, is going to extend over quite a space and over quite a bit of time.”

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Remembering Alexandra Naggear: 3-year-old Canadian killed in Beirut explosion

Remembering Alexandra Naggear: 3-year-old Canadian killed in Beirut explosion

Patel urged Canadians to continue donating to the Lebanon relief fund.

Canadians can confidently know that what they’re donating, they’re donating to Canadian NGO’s who are on the ground in Lebanon providing aid,” she said.

— With files from Global News’ Jasmine Pazzano

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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