Middle East

Lebanese diaspora mobilises after deadly Beirut blast

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Lebanon's diaspora, estimated at nearly three times the size of the tiny country's population of five million, has stepped up to provide assistance following the massive explosion that laid waste to the capital Beirut.

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Lebanese expats rushed to wire money to loved ones who lost their homes or were injured in the blast on Tuesday that killed at least 113 people, while others worked to create special funds to address the tragedy.

"I've been on the phone all morning with … our partners in order to put together an alliance for an emergency fund in light of the explosion," said George Akiki, co-founder and CEO of LebNet, a non-profit based in California's Silicon Valley that helps Lebanese professionals in the United States and Canada. "Everyone, both Lebanese and non-Lebanese, wants to help."

Akiki said his group, along with other organizations such as SEAL and Life Lebanon, have set up Beirut Emergency Fund 2020, which will raise much-needed money and channel it to safe and reputable organizations in Lebanon.

Many Lebanese expats, who almost all have loved ones or friends impacted by the disaster, are also helping individually or have started online fundraisers.

"As a first step, my wife Hala and I will match at least $10,000 in donations and later on we will provide more help towards rebuilding and other projects," Habib Haddad, a tech entrepreneur and member of LebNet based in Boston, Massachusetts, told AFP.

He said many fellow compatriots are doing the same, channeling their grief and anger toward helping their stricken homeland, which before the blast was already reeling from a deep economic and political crisis that has left more than half the population living in poverty.

"They're asking Lebanese emigrants around the world to try and help," said Maroun Daccache, owner of a Lebanese restaurant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a country that has an estimated seven million people of Lebanese descent.

"I'm trying to help with something but here the business is not very good because of the pandemic. Still, we are much better off than those over there," Daccache said.

'Terrible and heartbreaking'

Even before the tragedy, Lebanon heavily relied on its diaspora for cash remittances but these inflows had slowed in the last year given the country's political crisis.

Expats also usually visit home every summer, injecting much-needed cash into the economy. But the diaspora this year has largely been absent because of the COVID-19 pandemic and many had become increasingly skeptical and reluctant to send aid to a country where corruption is widespread and permeates all levels of society.

"People are outraged by the mismanagement of the country and they want to help, but no one trusts the people in charge," said Najib Khoury-Haddad, a tech entrepreneur in the San Francisco area, echoing the feeling of many Lebanese leery of giRead More – Source