Caritas Lebanon sees a 'deep’ psychological and material crisis three months after the explosions

The heart of the capital and the country was struck. Homes, schools, churches and hospitals are still counting the damage. People have nightmares, and some children have lost their faculty to speak. Caritas is helping 5,000 families and contributing to the reconstruction of 800 houses, Fr Michel Abboud said. All this needs the support of Lebanese abroad. More aid is needed.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – More than three months after Beirut’s devastating explosions in early August, the emergency situation has not yet ended, things are still precarious, with many needs not yet met.

The twin blasts on 4 August led to the death of 204 people and injured more 6,500 more, with 300,000 made homeless, and a final count not yet tallied.

A hundred days after the "initial shock", people are still experiencing a "profound crisis" that is both psychological and material. “It's like waking up” and seeing that “all is lost,” said Fr Michel Abboud, president of Caritas Lebanon,

Describing a critical situation not only in the heart of the capital, Beirut, but also across the country, "hit in its homes, schools, churches, hospitals,” the clergyman noted that people “need help and wonder how to continue”.

Matters have been complicated by Lebanon’s austere economic and financial crises, aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic that has brought the country’s healthcare to its knees, whilst the government is struggling to support reconstruction because of the lack of political stability over the past year.

“Caritas Lebanon and other NGOs are rebuilding homes,” said Abboud. “Thousands still need to be repaired. Then there is the aid provided to families experiencing hardships at a time when food and medicines that are increasingly hard to find.”

The country is going through a "serious medical crisis", also due to the COVID-19 epidemic, which has overwhelmed hospitals. Meanwhile, the damage is still being assessed.

The Maronite Archbishopric of Beirut suffered tens of millions of dollars in damages. Three churches rebuilt after the ravages of the civil war (1975-1990) will have to start again. That is St George’s Cathedral in the city centre, St Elias in Kantari and St Maron in Saïfi, where an official Mass is celebrated on 9 February each year dedicated to the patron saint.

The St Anthony of Padua’s Church, not far from ground zero, and St Michael’s also suffered heavy damage like their surrounding area.

In a statement, the Archbishopric of Beirut said that “Archbishop Boulos Abdel Sater gave priority to parishioners and city residents before the city’s churches, schools and Université La Sagesse. Homes must be rebuilt first.”

Families and children are paying a heavy price amid the critical situation. The latter need constant support since they often lack proper shelter and cannot go to school.

For this reason, experts warn, psychosocial help is "crucial" to allow victims and the traumatised an opportunity to rebuild their existence.

“Psychologically, there is a lot of suffering,” Fr Michel said. “Many children have lost the faculty to speak; many mothers are starting to have problems. People are having nightmares, dreaming about the explosions is not uncommon. For this reason, we have started a psychological support programme. But we are just at the start.”

On its own, Caritas Lebanon is helping 5,000 families with food packages and medicines and is involved in the rebuilding of 800 houses.

“There is a lot to do, so any contribution is welcome. Help from the Lebanese diaspora, from many overseas benefactors, is something precious.

“The incident left a deep scar on our bodies, but it is also an opportunity for help, support and Christian solidarity,” Fr Michel said.

As winter approach, needs will increase. For this reason, “I appeal to you to continue helping us,” the Caritas president added.

“We need drugs, food, and reconstruction, plus action to deal with the equally important psychological damage of victims. These people have a right to be helped.”

In order to help the people of Beirut and Lebanon, as well as Caritas Lebanon, AsiaNews is launching a campaign to ‘Help devastated Beirut’. Those who want to contribute can make a donation to:

PIME Foundation:

- International Bank Account Number (IBAN): IT78C0306909606100000169898

- Bank Identifier Code (BIC): BCITITMM

- Reason for transfer: AN04 – HELP DEVASTATED BEIRUT