Islanders struggling to help families in Lebanon as economy collapses

·2 min read
The anniversary will be marked with protests, marches and a moment of silence to remember the dead. (Hussein Malla/The Associated Press - image credit)
The anniversary will be marked with protests, marches and a moment of silence to remember the dead. (Hussein Malla/The Associated Press - image credit)

Wednesday is the first anniversary of the devastating explosion at the port in Beirut, one of a series of disasters that has struck the country, that it has still not recovered from.

Prince Edward Islanders with family members in the country are trying to find ways to help them survive.

The explosion killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and wrecked the port. Already suffering from political instability, a shaky economy and the COVID-19 pandemic, Lebanon's economy all but collapsed. There is hyperinflation and there has been no functioning government for more than a year.

"The problems in Lebanon are still ongoing and not getting any better," Fouad Haddad, whose wife has family in the country, told Island Morning host Laura Chapin.

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

"One of my sisters has high blood pressure and there's no medication for her. Hospitals, in the recent months, they've lost over 40 nurses. Food shortage, fuel shortage. There's no electricity."

The nurses are leaving, said Haddad, because no one is getting paid. Even those who want to carry on have trouble getting to the hospital because there is no gas for their cars.

Necessary medicines in short supply

Families have lost access to their savings. Money can only be withdrawn in limited amounts from the banks. Meanwhile, hyperinflation is eroding its value.

Josephine Sahely is trying to find a way to get diabetes medication to her mother.

"It is dangerous. Thank God she doesn't have it too bad," said Sahely.

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

"She actually sometimes goes to at least 10 pharmacies until she finds like one one box and it's not even full."

Because it is prescription medication in Canada, it is not possible for Sahely to buy it here and send it to Lebanon. Haddad is also frustrated trying to get his family the medication they need.

"There's no way to help at all. It's very difficult," said Haddad.

"Any medicines, probably, even reaching Lebanon is not even making its way into the Lebanese people. It's being sold at a higher price to other countries on the black market."

Billions of dollars in international aid are on hold for the country, waiting for a stable government. But a stalemate within the ruling class has prevented the establishment of a government.

No refugee status

Haddad said, currently, there is no way to easily bring his family to Canada.

"We tried in the past to get them to come to Canada but we didn't have any luck," he said.

"There's no refugee status in Lebanon yet. But maybe when the time comes, they will probably consider coming again."

Sahely said even if it was possible to bring her family to Canada, she doesn't think they would come.

"They want to stay in Lebanon," she said.

"It's their home."

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