Trial and triumph in Lebanon: Canadians’ generosity making an impact a world away

By: MairiAnna Bachynsky, Manager Communications and Courtney Wilson, Senior Manager, Communications, Operations

Lebanon has been facing an evolving and complex humanitarian crisis for several years, generating widespread and growing needs for humanitarian assistance. The people of Lebanon are the ones bearing the brunt of the impact of a series of devastating crises: a complex economic and financial crisis, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and the explosion that rocked the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020.

During the explosion, more than two hundred lives were lost, more than 6,000 people injured, and roughly 300,000 people lost their homes in the blink of an eye.
 

Humanitarian needs continue to be dire

 
The Canadian Red Cross’s vice-president of International Cooperation and Programs, Kelsey Lemon, recently travelled to the region and observed the Red Cross’s humanitarian work in action. She saw firsthand how critical the health services and lifesaving support provided by the Lebanese Red Cross continues to be for the people in Lebanon.
 
Young children looking at and standing upon a large, colourful mat”It actually took me by surprise the extent of the impact of the social and economic crisis here,” says Lemon, “people are struggling to meet their daily needs because of long term conflict and complex social and political contexts.”
 
A visit to an informal tent settlement close to the Syrian border highlighted the immense contribution of the Red Cross for Lemon. The settlement hosts Syrian refugees and was designed in collaboration with community leaders and residents. According to Lemon, the settlement provided “as much dignity and comfort possible under the circumstances.” This includes private latrines, fresh drinking water, and other essentials; games for children and other activities that provide a sense of community for people forced to leave their homes and facing an uncertain future.
 
“When I arrived, the children were playing a snakes and ladder game to teach them about hygiene promotion; the importance of hand washing, the importance of brushing their teeth, and the children were so engaged. They seemed very healthy and happy, and these were kids who were born in this settlement and haven’t ever known anything else.”
 
Lemon was invited into a home where a woman lived with her children. The family had no choice but to flee their home in Syria, and though it was devastating to leave, the mother of five, communicating with an interpreter said that she felt “safe, comfortable, and happy” living here supported by the Lebanese Red Cross.
 

The strength of the Red Cross

 
Two women in Red Cross shirts talking in the foreground while children play on a colourful mat in the backgroundVolunteers are the backbone of any Red Cross Red Crescent Society, and the Lebanese Red Cross is no exception. Lemon was particularly inspired by the commitment of volunteers in this region, as they fully staff and run ambulance services for health emergencies. Lemon witnessed the critical work of these highly trained volunteers while visiting an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) station in northern Lebanon.
 
“There was a commotion outside of the EMS centre and we learned that a young man had stepped on a landmine at the nearby Syrian Lebanese border and he was devastatingly injured. We saw them spring into action to save this young man’s life – and had he not had access to that ambulance service, it’s unlikely that he would have survived. It’s incredible and it’s amazing and it’s lifesaving the work that they do.”

Lemon later received an update from the Lebanese Red Cross that the young man was doing well and was being fitted for a prosthetic leg.
 

How Canadians can continue to help

 
Two women in Red Cross shirts and masks stand together talkingIt is stories like these, Lemon says, that make her proud to know that people living in Canada can contribute to an international Red Cross partner such as the Lebanese Red Cross, and ultimately make a difference a world away.
 
“It’s really incredible and inspiring to see how they’ve put the funding and the support of Canadians and particularly Lebanese Canadians to work in this country, helping so many people in need.”
 
The Lebanon Humanitarian Needs Appeal has raised more than $11 million to support people in Lebanon as they face this devastating humanitarian crisis. Funds contributed to the appeal continue to enable the Red Cross to prepare for emergencies, provide mobile health outreach, and respond to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region.
 
For those wishing to support the work to support the people of Lebanon, donations can be made to the Lebanon Humanitarian Needs Appeal.
 
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