Life in Lebanon is becoming increasingly difficult, with very few people able to escape the crippling fall out of the country’s years-long financial crisis. It is the most vulnerable, including the many refugees from neighbouring Syria, that have been hardest hit, while millions of others who previously lived comfortably have been pushed into poverty. On a recent visit to Lebanon Islamic Relief’s Deputy Director of Global Programmes Operations, Dr Ahmed Nasr, saw first hand how severe the humanitarian situation has become.

Arriving in Beirut for the first time in almost 4 years was a sobering experience. The city, which has endured so much turbulence over the last few decades, still bears the scars of the devastating explosion that killed more than 200 people in August 2020, with damaged buildings lining the short drive from the airport to the city centre.

The explosion came at a time when Lebanon was already struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic as well as political and economic turmoil. Services that were already stretched to their limit were being forced to make resources stretch even further.

Lebanon’s freefalling economy

The passage of time has done little to ease these pressures. The economic situation in the country has worsened, with a shocking 80% of the population now living below the poverty line. Astronomical inflation and the severe devaluation of the Lebanese pound have placed even the most basic items beyond the reach of the vast majority of people.

Keeping on top of humanitarian situations in the countries where Islamic Relief works is part of my job, but I was still struck by what I saw and heard in Lebanon.

Colleagues explained that they’d been forced to adapt to chronic electricity shortages by changing their working hours to when electricity is available. Power cuts are frequent, and their impact can be life threatening in sectors such as healthcare.

Dr Ahmed (left) meets with Lebanese health minister Firas Abiad

I was saddened to hear that in some cases fuel shortages have become so severe that Islamic Relief staff were forced to reluctantly concede that it is no longer possible to assist more remote communities.

Islamic Relief remains a lifeline for many

Every aspect of daily life in Lebanon is being impacted by the crisis and humanitarian efforts are no exception. Despite this, Islamic Relief is striving to support those who need us most.

The severity of Lebanon’s humanitarian situation requires a longer-term strategy, and we have formulated a plan to increase support and aid for the country, as well as to ensure that our existing projects are as efficient and beneficial as possible.

During the trip I met with government and health officials to discuss the current situation and how Islamic Relief can help, including with healthcare provision as a lack of funding and shortage of essential medicines and equipment has left Lebanon’s healthcare infrastructure unable to cope with demand.

Support for the most vulnerable

I also visited the Bunian Qalaman Camp in the mountainous border town of Arsal, where Islamic Relief is supporting Syrian refugees. There, we provide food, fuel, clothing and other essentials to help families, women and children endure the harsh winter.

I was struck by the resilience shown by the communities living in the camp, particularly the children, who still were still laughing and playing despite the challenges they’re facing.

Islamic Relief’s support is a lifeline to vulnerable people in Arsal and throughout Lebanon. As well as ensuring basic needs are met by providing food, water and shelter, we also run seasonal programmes to help those most in need receive nutritious food during Ramadan and Eid al-Adha.

Each winter, we provide shelter, blankets, and fuel to help families like those living in Arsal through the colder months, and Islamic Relief’s orphan sponsorship programme has helped to support thousands of children in Lebanon, alleviating some of the financial pressures their families face.

Working for brighter futures in Lebanon

Alongside these programmes, we operate development initiatives in sectors including healthcare, education, and livelihood. Through this work, we support vulnerable people, including those whose lives have been upended by the Beirut explosion and the crisis in neighbouring Syria, to become self-reliant once more through training and small loans.

I’d like to thank our team on the ground for all that they do, and our partners and donors who have always supported Lebanon. We will continue to work together to minimise the suffering of those in need.

Islamic Relief has been working in Lebanon since 2006, but our support has perhaps never been more needed.

Please help us to continue our vital work in Lebanon. Donate now.