February 19, 2021
By Mike Ziemerink
August 4 was a normal day for Johnny, his wife Sally and their son Ramy. The family was sitting down for dinner in their Beirut home with Sally’s elderly mother Maguy. Then the explosion hit. The family immediately ran from their dining room to the windowless hallway where they felt safest. The explosion blew out every window in their home and destroyed much of their belongings. Sally and Maguy had serious injuries and Johnny’s eye was cut. The explosion triggered flashbacks for the family who thought war had returned to their country.
The explosion ripped through the heart of Beirut, destroying homes, killing dozens and injuring thousands. The ensuing fires released toxic materials in the air. Tens of thousands lost their homes and vital infrastructure was damaged beyond repair, including health care facilities and grain silos storing around 85 percent of Lebanon’s grain. The government estimates damages in the range of $3-5 billion USD and UNOCHA estimates that at least 120 schools, attended by 50,000 children, sustained substantial damage. The explosion came at an already dire time for Beirut as Lebanon was – and still is –struggling with a financial crisis and massive unemployment.
The explosion destroyed Johnny’s family’s mattresses and bedding and they couldn’t afford to replace them. PWRDF’s partner on the ground, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), was able to support their immediate needs. They provided Johnny’s family with a two-month supply of food and hygiene products as well as new mattresses and linens. The family is grateful to MECC, ACT Alliance and PWRDF, for those contributions that they could not afford.
Thanks to our generous donors, PWRDF was able to raise more than $140,000 to respond to the disaster. As a member of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, donations to PWRDF received between August 4 and August 24 were matched by the Government of Canada. The Foodgrains Bank is a member of the Humanitarian Coalition which received the match.
The work to rebuild in Beirut is ongoing. Since the explosion inflation has crippled the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened, but the work of PWRDF partners on the ground is continuing to address the long-term needs of victims of the blast. Thanks to the generosity of donors, individuals and families affected by this disaster have received care and compassion as they work to rebuild their lives.