Lebanon: ‘throughout the 15 years of civil war we never witnessed such destruction’
TO SHOW ITS SOLIDARITY with the Lebanese people, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), in collaboration with Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and Caritas Lebanon, will reach out to local partners, enabling them to respond to the immediate and urgent need for food of 5,880 families from Gemmayze in Beirut up to Dbayeh on Mount Lebanon. Some of the local partners that will cooperate in the distribution of the food packages explained the situation:
“The blast shook us,” said Sister Rita Khoury from the Daughters of Charity, one of the congregations engaged in the aid project. Since 1959, the sisters have run a dispensary for maternal and infant health in the coastal city of Achrafieh, in the poor suburb of Karm el Zeitoun, where people lack any kind of help.
Siter Rita and a group of staff and volunteers have been walking the narrow streets of the densely populated Karm el Zeitoun neighborhood, trying to assess the needs and help people. ‘’The homes of our staff and all residents in the area have been damaged. The congregation’s five centers, including two schools, were also severely damaged and, unfortunately, we lost a sister in the explosion.”
Ashrafieh is one of the oldest districts of Beirut with thousands of old structures, just 1.5 miles from the Beirut port, site of the blast. Buildings and houses were damaged, with windows and doors shattered, furniture and equipment destroyed. North of Ashrafieh are also two poor areas which had their share of damages; Bourj Hammoud and Nabaa, which are heavily populated by poor Lebanese, vulnerable refugees, and marginalized migrant workers. It is where ACN’s project partner CNEWA supports two Church-related dispensaries, the Karagheusian socio-medical center and another socio-medical intercommunity dispensary, which provide medical and social aid to more than 7,000 needy persons. The Karagheusian center will benefit from the emergency aid.
“Thank God that the explosion happened at 6PM. If it had happened three hours earlier, our patients, my staff and I would have been dead by now! We welcomed 250 patients that morning morning with a team of 50 staff members. I cannot imagine what would have been the situation then. The center is badly damaged. My office is completely destroyed, we lost 25 windows, 15 doors, false ceiling, several laptops, a photocopy machine, and more,” said Serop Ohanian, the Karagheusian socio-medical center’s director.
“Throughout the 15 years of civil war we had never witnessed such destruction at one glance. No house, no shop, no institution was spared from damages,” said Sister Marie Justine el Osta, a member of the Maronite Holy Family Sisters congregation, the director of the Socio-medical intercommunity dispensary. The dispensary will be one of the distribution points of the food packages. It is located in the Nabaa area, a poor district in East Beirut with mixed communities, predominantly Christians displaced from Mount Lebanon and other parts of the country during the civil war, in addition to a large number of foreign workers (Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Sri-Lankan, Philippino, etc.) seeking shelter in cheap small lodging rentals.
“Even three of our staff had their share of injuries while they were in their homes. The dispensary is shattered, almost all the windows of the dispensary are broken, wood doors and even steel doors are damaged. Hundreds of homes in the vicinity of the center have seen damaged. They are the homes of our patients and people who are poor and come seeking medical support, food and clothing. They cannot repair whatever has been broken, especially with the current economic and financial crisis in the country.
“Thank God that the weather is good now but a few months from now we might have rain and then it will be a catastrophe. These people urgently need support as they cannot do the repairs on their own and, above all, they are without work, money, and food,” said Sister Marie Justine.