LONDON: As soon as the haunting images of the immense orange cloud filling Beirut’s late-afternoon sky and the terrifying videos of the explosion began circulating, UK-based non-profit Impact Lebanon took the initiative.
With an initial goal of raising £20,000 for disaster relief in medical and nutritional aid, the group has since raised more than £6 million — with a target of £7.5 million now set — after enormous worldwide support for what officials describe as a humanitarian disaster.
“We’re raising the funds, primarily from the diaspora and the international community in order to help support the work of the local NGOs on the ground,” Impact Lebanon co-founder Diana Abbas told Arab News.
Following the Aug. 4 blast that rocked the capital, Lebanese citizens and residents — both in and outside of the country — immediately mobilized to help after it was evident that the government was not doing so.
“We’re doing a vetting process to figure out which NGOs that we need to send money to, and the vetting process involves checking all local NGOs registered, making sure they’re non-sectarian and apolitical,” Abbas said, adding that among these NGOs are the Lebanese Red Cross, Arc En Ciel and Beit El Baraka.
The blast, largely blamed on government negligence that left 2,750 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate stored in a portside warehouse in Beirut for six years, has left at least 180 dead and thousands more injured. More than 300,000 people have lost their homes, while 2,096 restaurants were destroyed.
The London-based organization was first born out of the Lebanese October Revolution of last year. Unprecedented, nationwide mass protests denounced the corruption and sectarianism that has plagued the country for decades, plunging it into an economic and financial crisis that has seen its official currency, the Lebanese pound, lose more than 80 percent of its value in eight months.
“We set up Impact Lebanon because there are a lot of Lebanese people in the diaspora who are still very connected to their homes and want to do something to help and contribute, especially that our friends and our families are there but also it’s our country ultimately and I think that we all want to see Lebanon be the Lebanon that we aspire to,” Abbas said.
“It’s important from the diaspora to donate because we’re away from a lot of the stresses that people on the ground are feeling. That distance allows us to brainstorm, come up with new initiatives, spend our time dedicated to working on these initiatives.”
The group’s fundraising campaign has notched up several A-list celebrities, including singers Rihanna and Ariana Grande, who have promoted Impact Lebanon’s initiative on their social media platforms.
— Rihanna (@rihanna) August 13, 2020
my heart, strength and condolences are with Lebanon and everyone affected by this tragedy.
please support / donate if you’re able to, i will be doing so too. https://t.co/8ACJFzxl69
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) August 4, 2020
“We have a lot of gratitude toward the support that has been shown across the world in terms of awareness-raising but also in terms of sharing the fundraiser and in terms of donating to Lebanon,” the co-founder said.
“Please pay attention to what the people want and what the people are suffering from and what the people can use support in and basically guide your involvement in that way.”