Equipping First Responders in Lebanon with Medical Backpacks
First aid kits help underfunded frontliners in Lebanon
Lebanon has been struck by waves of disasters in the last 10 years, from war in neighboring Syria and the resulting influx of Syrian refugees to political unrest, cripplingly ineffective government, civic upheaval and unrest, economic collapse, and, finally, a massive explosion in Beirut.
Throughout these years, there have been public servants that remain unrecognized for the valuable work that they do in Lebanon. These heroes who do not wear capes, but helmets. They are the peaceful warriors who are there during demonstrations, ready to rescue anyone in harm. They are the civil defense volunteers of Lebanon.
The headquarters of the Lebanese Civil Defense is located in the Zouk Mikael neighborhood along the Beirut coast. As a public service agency, the organization works with the Lebanese Red Cross and firefighters to provide transportation for medical emergencies, conduct search-and-rescue activities, and help combat fires.
Our team has provided them with 38 first aid bags that they will use while in the field. Each bag contains multiple packages for wound care, personal protective equipment, basic supplies and pharmaceuticals.
Although they only have one ambulance at their Zouk Mikael station, with Direct Relief’s donation of these heavy-duty backpacks, they now effectively have 38 mobile units. With their kits stored in their home or car, each one of the 38 volunteer medics is now prepared to answer a call at a moment’s notice.
Yasmine Karam is a dedicated volunteer with the civil defense team. She explains why she does it:
“I have been working as a volunteer at the Lebanese civil defense for 20 years now because I want to serve my community and country without asking for anything in return.
“Unfortunately,” she says, “we have been suffering from a lack of material support for quite some time, especially first aid equipment, due to the difficult economic and living circumstances in Lebanon. As a result, the civil defense volunteers have been paying for equipment out of our own pockets.”
She says the first aid kits that they just received will help them “meet the needs of patients at any time.”
“I love this center very much,” Yasmine tells us. “I grew up in it, and I hope to one day stock it with all the necessary equipment it needs, especially an ambulance! Because now, we only have a very old car."
Roy Salloum joined the civil defense volunteers more recently. “My friends encouraged me to join,” he says. Since he signed up last year, he has learned a lot. “I have completed many training sessions. Our experienced colleagues have provided us with invaluable advice and hands-on experience while we worked with them on the ground.” He says they were particularly active during the demonstrations that erupted last fall, treating people who lost consciousness or sustained injuries in the protests.
He tells us,
“These first aid kits will help us heed the call of our humanitarian duty to patients and everyone in need of support and assistance.”
Of course, like all frontline responders around the world, the civil defense volunteers have been placing their lives and health in danger, simply by doing what they do. Roy says,
“We provide the community with emergency medical services and interact directly with the public, which means that taking preventive measures is crucial to protecting ourselves as well as the people around us."
The civil defense forces in Lebanon are underfunded by the government. Roy tells us,
“We have been forced to buy all kinds of supplies for the civil defense center, paying for them with our own money due to the complete absence of governmental funding.”
Roy has a message for Direct Relief and Anera’s supporters:
“Thank you for appreciating us, for recognizing us, for helping us help others!”
Roy finds his work at the civil defense fulfilling and meaningful. He is doing all kinds of things in the course of his duties. He strongly encourages youth in Lebanon to join the civil defense to serve their community and their country.