PARIS: World leaders on Sunday pledged “timely, sufficient” emergency aid for disaster-struck Lebanon which they vowed to deliver “directly” to a population reeling from the deadly port blast in Beirut.
Fifteen government leaders including US President Donald Trump took part in a virtual conference hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and the UN, pledging solidarity with the Lebanese people and promising to muster “major resources” in the coming days and weeks.
A joint statement issued after the emergency meeting in which nearly 30 countries as well as the EU and Arab League participated, did not mention a global amount, but individual nations announced pledges amounting to tens of millions of dollars.
“The participants agreed that their assistance should be timely, sufficient and consistent with the needs of the Lebanese people, well-coordinated under the leadership of the United Nations, and directly delivered to the Lebanese population, with utmost efficiency and transparency,” it said.
USAID acting administrator John Barsa also said that American help, some $15 million announced so far, “is absolutely not going to the government” of Lebanon.
Donor nations urged Lebanon’s authorities to “fully commit themselves to timely measures and reforms”, both politically and economically, in order to unlock longer-term support for the country’s economic and financial recovery.
And they said assistance for “an impartial, credible and independent inquiry” into Tuesday’s explosion “is immediately needed and available, upon request of Lebanon.”
The UN said some $117 million will be needed for an emergency response over the next three months, for health services, emergency shelter, food distribution and programmes to prevent further spread of Covid-19, among other interventions.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who was on Sunday’s group call, thanked Macron for the initiative.
“Much is needed to rebuild what has been destroyed and to restore Beirut’s lustre,” the Lebanese presidency quoted him on Twitter as saying.
“The needs are many and we need to address them quickly, especially before the arrival of winter, which will accentuate the suffering of homeless citizens.” Macron was the first world leader to visit the former French colony after Tuesday’s devastating explosion which killed more than 150 people, wounded some 6,000 and left an estimated 300,000 homeless.
While it is not known what started the fire that set off a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate, protesters say the disaster could not have happened without the corruption and incompetence that have come to define Lebanon’s ruling class.
At least 21 people are still missing, and the Lebanese army said hopes of finding survivors are dwindling.
Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2020