London-based Lebanese non-profit at forefront of Beirut fundraising

Volunteer clear the rubble in the Beirut neighbourhood of Mar Mikhael on August 14, 2020, more than a week after a massive blast ravaged the port and parts of the Lebanese capital. (AFP)
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Updated 15 August 2020

London-based Lebanese non-profit at forefront of Beirut fundraising

  • 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
  • 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

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.

“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.”


Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

Updated 21 September 2020

Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

  • UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast
  • Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week
BEIRUT: Lebanon has retrieved the bodies of four people including a child after they tried to flee the crisis-hit country by sea on an overloaded dinghy, the civil defense said Monday.
A week ago, UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast.
Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week, during which time several passengers had died or jumped overboard to find help.
The bodies are presumed to be from the same ill-fated crossing.
Since Friday, “we have retrieved four bodies — belonging to two Lebanese, one of whom was a child, a young Indian man and a Syrian man,” Samir Yazbek, the head of the civil defense’s sea rescue unit, told AFP.
The bodies were found in four separate locations off the north and south coasts of the country, and the search was ongoing, he added.
The UN refugee agency said last week that 25 Syrians, eight Lebanese and three people of other nationalities had been rescued from the boat.
It is unclear how many men, women and children originally clambered aboard the dinghy, and therefore how many are still missing.
On Saturday, the navy said it would step up its searches within and outside Lebanon’s territorial waters to find any other victims.
Relatives of those who went missing from the impoverished north Lebanese city of Tripoli say the people smuggler involved in the crossing has dropped off the radar since the tragedy.
They have filed three legal complaints against the man, who they say is a well-known figure in the community.
A military source on Saturday said a person acting as an intermediary between passengers and the boat owner had been arrested.
In recent weeks, dozens of Lebanese and Syrians have tried to make the perilous sea journey from Lebanon to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, authorities on both sides say.
The Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member, lies just 160 kilometers (100 miles) away.
Lebanon is in the throes of its worst economic crisis in decades, compounded since February by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It is also reeling from a monster blast at Beirut’s port last month that killed more than 190 people, ravaged large parts of the capital and reignited public anger against the political class.