This crisis doesn’t ask for your ID

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Lebanon faces an unprecedented crisis

The news from Lebanon has been grim for sometime now, and it gets more dire every day. We are in an unprecedented situation. Businesses are closing and we regularly hear of layoffs. Around half of the population is unemployed and many families who have financial means are choosing to leave the country. The Lebanese lira continues to fall and poverty is getting more prevalent. Politicians are making polarizing pronouncements as protesters return to the streets to demand reforms, but the government has not yet taken any real steps to address protesters’ demands. 

In the meantime, we continue to live in the era of COVID-19. Restrictions are starting to relax, with stores and malls opening. This unfortunately also translates into individuals taking fewer precautions, like wearing masks and socially distancing. Because Lebanon has managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic so far, some people are no longer taking it seriously. Of particular concern are the refugee camps, where conditions are crowded and the potential for spread is very high. We are already seeing an uptick in cases, the most recent of which are in the Ein El Hilweh and Beddawi Palestinian refugee camps. 

Shatila camp ⁠— home to 27,000 Palestinian & Syrian Refugees. Crowded conditions like this are typical in Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps.

We are also seeing shortages of medicines, medical supplies and consumables and, due to mass unemployment, an inability to purchase them. I’ll share a personal example of what this means. I have a family member who is diabetic and needs regular medication. Last week, I had to go to four different pharmacies before I could find one with the medicine in stock.

There are no quick or easy solutions to the issues confronting Lebanon. This will go on for a long time before it gets better. But people in this country are resilient and tough. We have been through so much!

As Anera’s country director in Lebanon, I want to appeal to our wonderful community of supporters to stand in solidarity with the people of my country – everyone here: Lebanese, Palestinians and Syrians. The crisis we are experiencing does not discriminate. It doesn’t ask for people’s IDs.

Make-shift tented home for a refugee family on the road from Baalbek to the mountains in Lebanon | Photo by Peripitus.

We, the Anera family, need to provide support to maintain people’s dignity. The poverty is crushing. It has an impact on all aspects of life — food, shelter, school, health, work. We are in emergency mode — but the good news is that our Anera team, along with our local partners, is adept and effective in responding. 

For more than eight months, since the protests started and the coronavirus era began, Anera has pivoted our programs in Lebanon to humanitarian response. Employing a cash-for-work strategy, we have engaged the youth who participate in our education programs to help some of Lebanon’s most vulnerable people. These young people learn great skills, while earning an income and supporting their communities. Sewing students have made 400,000 masks to date, and plan to produce 650,000 more. Catering students have so far made hot meals for 3,000 families. Electrical and plumbing students have constructed 40 sterilization gates for the entry points to camps and municipalities. And construction and carpentry students are building three isolation centers

Awareness and Consolation Association, to produce masks in Mount Lebanon Governorate (2)
Producing masks in Mount Lebanon Governorate.

Anera has provided more than 16,000 food parcels and 13,500 hygiene kits to struggling families. And we have delivered many millions of dollars worth of medicines and PPE to health care facilities and frontline workers. We have also provided cash assistance to more than 2,300 families

There is still so much to do! We need to keep up the great and impactful work you are supporting. We need to send more medicines  –  supplies are low all over  –  and feed more families. We need to step up, once again, COVID-19 awareness messaging in camps to mitigate its spread and to address stigma around the virus, which can lead people not to self-isolate. We need to provide more cash assistance to parents struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table. 

And we need to keep on employing and training our amazing young people, for they are our hope for a better future.

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