I had just arrived home from a long day when my family and I felt the tremor.
At first we thought it was a bomb. I have two daughters and a son, and having been born long after my country’s brutal civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990, they had never heard anything like this before. Terrified, I will never forget them asking “Mum, is Lebanon under attack? Are we safe? Should we leave?”
This time, it wasn’t anything to do with war. Instead it was a tragic explosion of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port, which killed at least 180 people, injured 6,000 more and wiped away the homes of an estimated 300,000 citizens.
The scale of the blast was immense: the port, which brings in 80% of Lebanon’s food supplies, was destroyed. Surrounding buildings, many of them people’s homes and offices, were ripped to shreds. The noise reportedly travelled as far as Cyprus, 250km away.
The day after the explosion, I joined my colleagues in assessing what needed to be done to help. I could barely describe the devastation: people were crying in desperation, searching among the rubble where their homes once stood, trying to recover whatever they could, taking photos of the damage on their phones. The smell of blood was overwhelming.
Not only can most people not afford to see a doctor, they cannot even afford the transport to get there.
As health officer at Islamic Relief Lebanon, my day-to-day work involves liaising with hospitals and public health centres to assess how we can support with medical supplies; and organising the payment of bills and consultations for people who cannot afford it.
The country’s economic crisis – nearly half of the population are living below the poverty line – has made access to healthcare out of reach for so many people for a long time now. Not only can most people not afford to see a doctor, they cannot even afford the transport to get there.
Most hospitals cannot afford to import drugs or medical supplies, which did not bode...