Despite the restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, South African relief aid agencies are doing what they can to reach out to Lebanon and assist with the humanitarian catastrophe on the ground. Beirut has been devastated by a cataclysmic explosion at its harbour, that ripped through the city. Officials said 135 people have died and 5000 are injured following the blast on Tuesday. More than 300 000 people have been left homeless, after the bomb – said to have been caused by a large stockpile of ammonium nitrate – damaged hundreds of homes, stores and other facilities.
On Friday, Gift of the Givers announced it will donate R1 million to support the crisis in Beirut. The organsiation’s founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman says its an “unconventional” response compared to what they usually do. This time, there will be no preparation of search and rescue and medical teams flying in from across the country.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis in South Africa, GOTG teams will remain here to work locally. However, GOTG will support an organisation called Ghirass working in Beirut. Dr Sooliman says having assisted Lebanon in 2006, “they know the lay of the land”.
“Gift of the Givers has partner networks globally to increase the speed of disaster intervention where calls are made for international assistance. Having assisted Lebanon in 2006 we have a feel of the environment. In recent years we work with Ghirass, a social development agency, that hosted us at a humanitarian conference in Istanbul last year. Gift of the Givers intervention in Beirut will be facilitated by Ghirass,” he explained.
Hundreds of Lebanese have offered shelter in a bid to assist the displaced in Beirut. However, there are hundreds still missing, or trapped in the rubble under buildings. The death toll is expected to rise as authorities continue the search.
“The greatest need currently is food, water, blankets, clothing and medical supplies. However, we also need to support families who lost their breadwinners in the explosion. We can’t create housing for 300 000 people but whatever we can give to create ease for the people, is the best we can do,” he told VOC News.
Hassan Choonara from Africa Muslim Agency (AMA) said their volunteers had to bring in bread from neighbouring towns to Beirut as the wheat factory has been destroyed in the explosions. AMA teams have been on the ground distributing food and water to families affected. The relief agency has also facilitated mobile clinics and supporting three hospitals in Beirut with essential medical supplies.
Africa Muslims Agency has established an emergency fund. Donors are urged to donate with urgency & generously as our teams on the ground render Emergency Aid to the people of #Lebanon. #HealLebanon.
Call the Africa Muslims Agency 24hr. numbers: +2783 251 9376, or +2781 030 8241 pic.twitter.com/IOUH4M7DbC
— Africa Muslims Agency (@AMASADirectAid) August 6, 2020
Lebanon’s cabinet has declared a two-week state of emergency as investigations were launched into the blast. The explosion has intensified an already volatile situation in Beirut due to the combined challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, a nationwide lockdown and an incapacitating financial crisis. The country is already struggling with increased power cuts, limited medicines, shortage of hospital capacity, rising prices of food and basic items and huge job losses.
Islamic Relief South Africa said it’s trying to also raise funds to support their teams in Lebanon who are currently distributing emergency food parcels to vulnerable families across Beirut. Lebanon is a host to refugees from Palestine and Syria and aid is extended to the refugee community affected by the blast.
“Reports from Islamic Relief offices in Lebanon, have portrayed a harrowing picture of a country in agony; rescue workers are working around the clock to locate people buried under the rubble, people are being evacuated as buildings are severely damaged and unsafe,” said the organisation in a statement.
“The teams are on the ground assisting with massive clean-ups following the destruction affecting homes and business in the capital city. Ongoing assessments on the ground will ascertain the immediate and long term aid required to rebuild the fallen city.”
To support, donate to:
Gift of the Givers,
Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg, Account number 052278611, Branch Code 057525, ref Lebanon.