Images from the Lebanese capital of Beirut continue to portray the human tragedy, utter devastation and heartbreak following Tuesday’s catastrophic explosion.
Nearly 150 people have died, thousands are injured and some 300,000 Beirut residents — a massive number of displaced, shocked and horrified people — have no homes to return to, and in many cases, no homes remaining for any eventual rebuilding.
World Population Review identifies Beirut, which has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years, as one of the world’s oldest cities.
The people of Lebanon and residents of Beirut have endured much, and prior to Tuesday, were facing very real economic and political crises. A civil war from 1975 to 1990 resulted in an estimated 120,000 deaths, while a current economic collapse, with the Lebanese pound having lost 60 per cent of its value just in the month of July, had already made national poverty a very real fact of daily life.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, some 1.5 million Syrians have sought refuge in Lebanon, a significant challenge for the small nation of 6.8 million.
While the source of the cataclysmic explosion is thought to have been some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the port of Beirut, the Lebanese government continues to investigate.
Meanwhile, popular anger is increasingly directed toward the government. A major street protest is planned for Saturday amid calls for an overthrow of the national administration.
Lebanon is a nation in turmoil, agony and grief.
Many of us in Canada have experienced an unexpected personal loss which, at the moment it struck, may have seemed almost insurmountable.
For example, my wife and I had a house fire suddenly thrust on us in 2012.
A sooty, soaking and smoking largely destroyed home is a huge shock. Yet on an individual basis, within most areas of this nation, we have in place support infrastructure to rebuild and insurance policies to defray extraordinary costs, while setting into motion a relatively rapid return to a normal life.
For hundreds of thousands of residents of Beirut, the most pressing needs are of the most fundamental types.
Hospital bed capacity has been dramatically reduced with large amounts of PPE supplies, needed to protect against the COVID-19 virus, lost. Some 100,000 children now have no home while more than 100 schools are destroyed, along with Lebanon’s only grain silo, which will only exacerbate already challenged food security, according to the World Food Programme.
Canada has announced $5 million in assistance, not to the Lebanese government but rather to trusted organizations such as the International Red Cross. A drop in the proverbial bucket.
Home to an estimated up to 2.2 million souls, located at one of the world’s most beautiful vistas, and with its communal history stretching back 50 centuries, Beirut and its people are in extraordinary need.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.