First, I want to acknowledge that many MECA supporters have loved ones in Lebanon and we hope they are safe and coping as best they can in the face of this disaster. MECA stands in solidarity with all the people in Lebanon, including the millions of refugees from Palestine, Syria, and Iraq, as they face another devastating crisis.
I will let MECA’s long-time partner Olfat Mahmoud, Director of the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organization, (PWHO) tell her story of the day of the explosion. MECA has been working with the PWHO the in the refugee camps around Beirut for many years. Now, I want to highlight Olfat’s request to MECA for milk for children and babies, psychological support for families, distribution of hygiene supplies and food parcels.
Many thanks for your solidarity and support!
Zeiad Abbas Shamrouch, Executive Director
“The First Thing I Thought about is Milk”
–Dr. Olfat Mahmoud, Director of the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organization
On Tuesday, each and every person in Lebanon, in Beirut to be exact, has a different story to tell. What happened August 4 was categorized as the third most powerful explosion in the world.
I would like to share with you my story which is by far one of the worst experiences I’ve faced during my life. On Tuesday, while I as at the kitchen washing the dishes, I felt the ground shaking under my feet. At the beginning, I thought it was an earthquake, so I left the dishes and headed to the door to leave the kitchen. As I was walking towards the door, I heard a very loud sound and the kitchen door opened by itself and it was broken down. I felt that the building was collapsing. For a second there, I wasn’t able to catch my breath. I felt lost and I wasn’t able to pull myself together. Then, I headed to the balcony while shouting out loud, “it’s an earthquake.” When I reached the balcony, I heard people saying: “Look at the smoke.” I looked up and saw red smoke filling the sky and I was terrified.
An explosion of 2,750 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate that were being stored in a warehouse at the port of Beirut for six years. News also says that over 100 people were dead, more than 4,000 injured, and many are missing. Officials said the toll is expected to rise as rescue workers are still pulling people from the debris.
As a refugee myself, I started to think that now many people will be displaced because their houses are destroyed, so they will be refugees in their own country. I remembered how losing your house means losing your dignity. I remembered how hard it is to lose the memories you’ve lived in each and every corner of that house.
In Lebanon, we are going from one disaster to another, starting from the political chaos, to the bad economic situation, then the COVID-19 pandemic, and now this explosion! Everything that this explosion destroyed needs time to get rebuilt.
Officials are asking people to leave Beirut because of the effects of the ammonium nitrate. While the chemicals in the air should dissipate fairly quickly, lingering pollutants can cause serious problems. As refugees, they have no other houses to go to or enough money to leave the camps. This simply means that they should stay in Beirut and inhale the poisonous acid and die. The houses in the camps are always at a risk of collapsing and after what happened yesterday there is a greater risk now.
I thought about the refugees who have minimal jobs that they lost and of those who are unemployed because the Lebanese government has forbidden the refugees the right to work. I don’t want them to starve especially that Lebanon now is facing a very bad economic situation.
The first thing I thought about was milk. Milk is now very expensive, yet it may be a necessary way to protect or heal people if they inhale the poisonous acid. Besides milk, I also thought of food packages that contain essential products for refugees to be able to survive this harsh period. In addition to that, PWHO will work with women and children to support them psychologically through its programs. That is all what is needed for now until we see what will happen next.