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Thursday, January 27, 2022

‘This is inhumane’: Qatar’s community scrambles to help Lebanon amid total collapse


As the country battles with a shortage of food and medicine, the Lebanese community in Doha has mobilised to gather donations to aid those in need. 

No electricity. No medicines. No Food. This is the reality for hundreds of thousands of Lebanese people struggling to obtain basic living necessities as the country battles multiple crises that have crippled the economy.

However, if there’s one thing to take out of Lebanon’s decades-long struggles, it is the resilience and faith of its people.

As the dire situation worsened over the last few days, Qatar’s Lebanese community has mobilised to advocate and gather donations to aid those in need in their home country, bringing together necessities from medicine and sanitary products to baby food and diapers.

Popular content creators on social media have quickly jumped to action, urging the  community to donate anything possible. One of those people is Rita Dahdah Fawaz, who told Doha News that she received countless messages from mothers back in Lebanon asking for baby formula and medicines for their sick children.

“Some kids had fevers and no medicine to bring the fever down. This was just too much for me! I kept imagining that my baby got sick and I didn’t have access to the simplest medication like Panadol. I kept imagining him crying from hunger because he has no more formula. This is inhumane,” she said.

Lebanon’s daily living costs – from gas to electricity, meat, and sugar — have been skyrocketing for everything, but that’s not even the worst part.

The country has also been suffering from what the World Bank has labelled one of the most severe global financial crises since the mid-19th century. The Lira has lost more than 90% of its value in the last two years, triggering a dire economic depression that has left its mark on the majority of its civilians.

Half of the Lebanese population is currently facing poverty, while wealthy and middle-class people are quickly fleeing the country to escape the lack of fuel and electricity.

Shelves across supermarkets have been left empty in recent months and mothers and families have been struggling to find food and medicines for their loved ones.

Hospitals have also sent imminent warnings that a fuel and electricity shortage might lead to hundreds of deaths when generators run out.

The worrying lack of fuel and electricity, the loss of basic food necessities and medicine, and the spike in prices for what is available in the market have pushed the Lebanese diaspora to donate what they can to family back home. 

“It’s been two years since the Lebanese in Lebanon have been living in survival mode. Depreciation of a currency, unemployment, no basic rights. With the dollar shortage came the fuel shortage and the medicine shortage as well,” Fawaz added.

“As an expat, I wondered what I could do to help, so I asked the beautiful community around me here in Qatar to help by donating medicines that have become scarce in Lebanon.”

Rita—who has almost 200,000 Instagram followers—posted several stories urging people to donate, sharing lists of essentials needed to be sent.

The list included Advil, Aspirin, burn creams, diapers, pads, and baby milk formula.

Moments later, the influencer received hundreds of responses from the community in Qatar asking to donate. She told Doha News that she did not expect such an instant and incredible response from the generous people of Qatar.

“Within minutes, I started receiving donations, and what was supposed to fill one suitcase now requires a container! I’m overwhelmed by the support and love and can’t begin to thank the community here enough,” she said, adding that she received enough over-the-counter medication for now, with more still expected to come in.

Those wishing to donate can reach out to Rita through her Instagram and check her posts to stay up to date with what donations are most needed. The donations will be given to those in need with no charge, Rita stressed, adding that packages will be sent with reliable sources to avoid any fraud.

But fortunately, Rita is not the only one trying to help her community back home. Among those leading aid efforts is Alaa Mohamed Ali, who’s been collecting donations from those who want to help through her Instagram page.

Alaa has been arranging aid shipments to Lebanon in the past weeks, asking people to donate as much medicine as possible due to the shortage back home.

This Thursday, she will be sending another shipment from this week’s donation, she told Doha News.

“Our friends and families, and even strangers are suffering, it’s heartbreaking,” Alaa emphasised.

“We’re gathering some important and crucial medications that are not available in Lebanon and arranging them with travellers leaving from here to give them to NGO’s that we’re working with that will be distributing them to families in need. We need chronic medication, burn medicine, pain killers, and more!”

Ali told Doha News that donors can reach out to her through her Instagram page before Wednesday to catch the latest shipment.

Qatar Efforts

It’s not just the community that has kept Lebanon in mind.

Qatar’s Amir Tamim Bin Hamad al Thani has also played a role in helping the country during its multiple crises.

Qatar’s Lebanese community remembers devastating Beirut blast one year on

Last week, the second batch of Qatari food aid to the Lebanese army arrived in Beirut.

That came as part of the Gulf nation’s promise to provide 70 tonnes of aid to the military for an entire year as part of its efforts to alleviate some of the burdens on Lebanese authorities.

The first shipment was sent last month on an Amiri Air Force aircraft belonging to the Qatari Armed Forces, as Lebanon continues to seek assistance while facing its worst economic and political crisis in decades.

In June, Lebanon’s army chief Joseph Aoun had appealed to world powers to assist the military, noting it was struggling to pay soldiers’ wages. Aoun also warned that all state institutions would collapse without assistance, as the country itself is unable to support its own people.

The Beirut Explosion

On August 4 of last year, Lebanon’s capital Beirut was almost completely wiped out by an atomic-like explosion fuelled by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate.

Neighbourhoods were destroyed, buildings collapsed and the heart of the city’s vibrant commercial district was ravaged by the mega blast. It has since been classified among history’s largest non-nuclear, human-caused explosions, ranking as the sixth-largest accidental blast in human history.

In total, 200 people were killed and 6,000 more injured. The already struggling Lebanese economy worsened, adding another financial crisis to the country.

Shortly after the Beirut blast, then Prime Minister Hassan Diab stepped down along with several government members.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri later became the PM-designate before he stepped down last month without forming a government, and was soon replaced with billionaire businessman Najib Mikati.

Lebanon’s deep economic crisis was exacerbated in October 2019, when plans to impose taxes on internet-based calling services such as WhatsApp, triggered mass demonstrations that were followed by the resignation of Hariri.

The coronavirus pandemic has also added a heavy burden on the country’s health sector.

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