Lebanon Needs Your Prayers

We wanted to give you an update on what has been happening in Lebanon. Our partners are coping amazingly, but times are tough, your prayers and ongoing support continue to be needed.

Saturday 17th October marked a year since the so-called “October Revolution” when Lebanese citizens took to the streets to protest against a new government proposed tax on WhatsApp calls.

As you may recall, these mass public demonstrations continued nationwide, even after the government decision was revoked, as people took a stand against years of economic mismanagement by their political elite. The situation has been in a downward spiral ever since then, as the country has witnessed the resignation of two governments, the Lebanese currency has lost nearly 80% of its value, unemployment levels have spiked to unprecedented levels and people’s purchasing power has plummeted.

Estimates on the current poverty rates in Lebanon are difficult to come by, but figures of up to 70% are widely cited by news agencies. Many families are facing food insecurity, as they increasingly struggle to afford essential food and household items such electricity and cooking fuel. The price of basic commodities, like bread and flour has trebled, and in some cases quadrupled.

And this was before the advent of Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. In the initial period, the Lebanese authorities were successful in containing the outbreak in the country due to strict lockdown measures – the closure of public institutions and all national borders. But the economic impact of these measures was far-reaching, especially for families reliant on a daily wage. And then the explosion at the port in Beirut happened on 4th August, which killed around 200 people, injured 7,000 and left an estimated 300,000 people homeless.

In addition to the devastating human toll, the Beirut blasts further exacerbated the already dire economic situation. Official estimates suggest that the explosion caused up to US$15 billion in damage. For a country that is in the midst of an economic and politic crisis, these figures are daunting. Many families simply cannot afford the additional cost of repairing their homes. Moreover, the World Health Organisation assessed 55 healthcare facilities and found around half were damaged, making responding to the Covid pandemic even more challenging.

Two weeks after the port explosion, Beirut apparently recorded a 180% increase in Coronavirus cases. The cases have continued to rise exponentially. 

So what are Embrace partners’ doing in the face of all of this?

Karagheusian Association

Located in Bourj Hammoud, the Karagheusian primary healthcare centre suffered extensive material damage from the blast, with shattered doors, windows, skylights, and collapsed ceilings throughout the majority of the offices and clinics.

Embrace was the first to respond with a concrete commitment of support for the structural repairs to the centre, enabling Karagheusian to resume full services to the patients in their catchment area. By way of testament to the impact of this, Karagheusian recorded 10,000 patient visits to its clinics in August 2020 alone – more than double their monthly average – after they took the decision to make all of their health and social care services free of charge.

Some personal words of thanks to Embrace from Serop Ohanian, the Lebanon Field Director at the Karagheusian Association:

“In these dark corners of this world, I am grateful to God that I am not alone. You were the first ones who reached out to me by prayer and action. Your actions speak louder than words: you reached out to me by prayers, encouragement, counsel & financial support.

You were quick to listen to my needs and immediately act accordingly; I am so grateful.”

Beit el Nour

In the neighbouring Nabaa district, we supported our partner, Beit el Nour, who run an informal education centre for out-of-school Lebanese and Syrian girls, to run an outreach project providing Psychological First Aid and essential household items to families in their catchment area of Bourj Hammoud/Nabaa, as well as in the neighbouring district of Karantina, adjacent to the port.

This four-month project is providing support to 100 directly affected vulnerable families. The provision of material assistance (food, essential household and hygiene items) is complemented by weekly “psychological first aid” sessions undertaken by Beit el Nour’s qualified team of social workers and psychologists.

The material assistance consists of a one-off distribution of essential household items (blankets, crockery, cutlery, etc.), followed by monthly distributions of food and other household and sanitary goods. 

LSESD-MERATH

As one of our high-capacity partners in Lebanon working through a national network of 29 local churches and community faith-based organisations, LSESD was well-placed to respond quickly to the emergency when it occurred in early August 2020. LSESD reached out to Embrace, as to its other international partners with a comprehensive programme of immediate and longer-term recovery needs, including support to its own ministries and staff directly or indirectly affected by the explosion.

Embrace agreed to contribute towards a discrete immediate needs programme, focussed on vulnerable community members and ensuring the provision of basic material assistance –food vouchers, hygiene kits or medical support – wherever the needs/gaps are greatest.

Glimmers of Hope

In terms of the wider picture, and Embrace’s ongoing support, many of our Lebanese partners have had to adapt their ongoing programmes in the face of the current crisis, supplementing their ongoing work in education, health and support to people with disabilities to meet the more pressing needs of the local communities they serve. It is a fairly bleak picture, but there are glimmers of hope.

For example, as Lebanese schools are gradually allowed to reopen, under restricted measures, our partner Tahaddi shared with me that they have resumed the Best Step class, a special education class newly supported by Embrace, for young children with developmental and learning disabilities, living in a very poor slum area of Beirut. 

For the special education class, a daily 2-hour of remote learning program was put in place. This presented considerable challenges, considering some of these children are non-verbal, and have differing physical abilities. But in spite of a difficult situation, the children all improved in the area of autonomy and communication. The children couldn’t depend on their educators to repeat a task, an instruction or guide them, so they had to learn autonomy. They had to hold the phone and listen by themselves to a song, or an activity.

The motto of the Tahaddi informal education centre is that 'no child should be deprived of education'. And the team has remained faithful to this. 

In a time of such uncertainty, it is understandable that many Lebanese might want a way out. People are tired, people are leaving. But Embrace’s partners remain steadfast: they are committed to stay and to serve. And we as Embrace are committed too – to them and to those they serve, for the long haul, supporting them wherever the needs are greatest. 

They will be there for the long-haul, and with your support, Embrace is committed to remaining with them too. We thank you for your support, and invite you to pray for those living in such incredibly difficult circumstances.

 
Sophia Peiris
Programmes and Partnerships Manager