It has been six months since an explosion in the area around the port of Beirut destroyed a large part of the city. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese were homeless overnight. Many residents of the Lebanese capital are still busy refurbishing their homes.
“ My house was completely destroyed by the explosion,” says Roy Bassil. “Theres nothing left of it. Its the house where I was born and raised. All memories have been lost.” Bassil is currently renting a property outside the city. “Of course, I hope to be able to return soon, but it needs time. Time to forget this massacre.”
Middle East correspondent Daisy Mohr visited Roy Bassil to see how things are going with the refurbishment of his house:
Lebanon is facing a major economic crisis and the coronavirus is also spreading around. The country is virtually bankrupt and its inhabitants hardly have to rely on the help of the government. “We dont get anything from the state,” Bassil says. “The army came by to see, but we didnt get any help.”
Corona stands in the way of help
Yet giving up is not in Lebanese blood, immediately after the disaster, residents were ready to help each other. Entrepreneur Mariana Wehbe decided to repair the damaged homes with a team of volunteers. But the strict corona measures in the country make this virtually impossible. Lebanon has been in a total lockdown since 7 January and no one is allowed to go outside.
“ All our projects have been stopped, it is impossible to get there. We still have at least 60 properties on our list to repair, but with the crowded hospitals, its just too big a risk for families and emergency workers.”
Teresa Ibrahim also agrees this. “Essential aid is still being offered, but a lot slower than before and on a smaller scale.” Lebanese Ibrahim works from Amsterdam for the aid organization Plan International Nederland. She was the emergency aid coordinator of the national Giro555 action.
The aid organizations behind Giro555 raised more than 15 million euros. “In the beginning, the aid was mainly focused on handing out hygiene kits, hot meals, cleaning up debris and mapping the damage.” In addition, the aid organizations help repair the homes and provide medical assistance.
Plan now focuses mainly on providing psychological assistance to victims and education for children whose schools have been destroyed. Because of the strict lockdown in the country, Ibrahim and her team often do this by phone and online.
Ibrahim visited her hometown of Beirut last month, partly for family visits and partly for work. “The contrasts in the city are great. Some homes have been completely refurbished, while others are still badly damaged,” she says. “Many inhabitants still have little hope. They know that not much will change in their situation in the near future.”
Middle-East correspondent Daisy Mohr also feels the hopelessness in the city. “Many Lebanese hoped for political change after the explosion, but it was not. Although the government resigned within a week of the explosion, the country is unable to form a new government. And so the situation is becoming more and more hopeless.”
Many citizens blame the corrupt government for the explosion because they knew that a large amount of ammonium nitrate was stored in the warehouse in the port area and were doing nothing. Moreover, they feel that there is too little help and that no one is taking responsibility. Bassil: “I will never be able to forgive the perpetrators of this disaster”.
In December, Newssuur spoke with three Lebanese about the disaster year 2020: