The Monegasque association has worked in Lebanon for almost 30 years. School sponsorships, construction of schools, education centres, vocational training for Lebanese children and families and Syrian refugees. Never, in all these years of humanitarian action in this country, has the presence of Mission Enfance been so fundamental.
Returning from its humanitarian mission in this country where misery now spreads at the foot of the jagged skyscrapers of downtown Beirut, the Mission Enfance team has rescued hundreds of families. Traumatised by the incredible violence of the August 4 explosion, residents of the Lebanese capital are no longer sleeping. “At night, I see the wounded running bloodied in the streets, their hands on their wounds, looking for a hospital still standing, I see these children with bodies pierced by shards of glass, and all these blind people… ” says Antoine, a student at AUB, American University of Beirut. “The ophthalmologists and all the medical staff in Beirut worked like crazy that night. But how many disabled people are we going to see coming out of hospitals now?”
Beirutis are in shock. The port explosion is just one tragedy among many for Lebanese population. Daily protests across the country demand the fall of his government. Lebanese banks, running out of dollars, the main currency of transactions, only allow withdrawals of $100 per week. The country was declared in default of payment last March.
Since then, the Lebanese have endured a veritable descent into hell. “We’ve been blown up, we’re ruined and tomorrow what can happen to us? A war?” worries Sofia, a mother from the Achrafieh neighbourhood who can no longer pay for her two children’s schooling and has suspended treatment for her cancer for six months. Not far from the old-fashioned elegance of the now devastated Ottoman houses of Gemmayzeh, we discover families living in slums who camouflage the hunger of their children under the dignity of their welcome.
Salaries that are only half paid, when they are paid …, hyperinflation of prices multiplied by eight for a year, a middle class which is sinking a little more into poverty every day: 60 percent of the Lebanese population today live below the poverty line and unemployment affects 40 percent of the working population. The Lebanese’s last resort: humanitarian aid.
Our foodstuffs purchased in Lebanon to support the traders – rice, chickpeas, flour, oil, canned food, etc.- and our money endowments are distributed by hand by our local team to families in downtown Beirut but also to those of Karantina, Sin el Fil, Bourj Hamoud … Our financial donations help in the repairs of the houses but most often, we face the tears of helplessness of the fathers of families, like those of Toni: “My mechanic’s salary is reduced by half and my boss tells me that I am free to leave… ”. Toni, like so many others, will receive the funds to buy back a damaged fridge and pay for his two children’s annual school fees. Each family is visited, its needs are assessed, before Mission Enfance provides its support.
In Bourj Hamoud, thanks to the goodwill of the managers of our centres, we have issued vouchers in supermarkets to more than 100 families listed. Enough to feed their children for a month.
Faced with the poverty of parents, we finance the annual schooling of 50 additional students. We distribute computers to teachers and children forced to take their courses online as the confinement of certain regions of Lebanon requires… Currently, we are rehabilitating 18 classrooms with walls destroyed by the explosion in Saint Charles school, in Beirut, to allow 400 students to regain hope through normal schooling.
Our humanitarian actions, both development and emergency, are just a drop in the bucket, but they contribute to the survival of this country that was once called “the Switzerland of the Middle East”.
Every day our teams are on the ground and distribute food and financial relief. And we are preparing tomorrow. Indeed, what will happen when, as announced by the Lebanese authorities, products such as gasoline, medicines or flour are no longer subsidised by a desperate state?
The response of Mission Enfance is unceasing for the most disadvantaged. But it can only be brought to the children of Lebanon thanks to the solidarity of all.
Director of Mission Enfance
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PHOTO: Mission Enfance meeting the urgent needs of a desperate Lebanese family