Volunteers and staff from a Christian Aid-supported organisation working to help those displaced by the conflict in Lebanon say the world needs to understand the depths of the humanitarian crisis unfolding there.
“The news isn’t showing the reality of what is happening here,” said Pascale Kolakez, a psychologist speaking from a Beirut school that Christian Aid partner Mouvement Social (MS) has converted into a shelter for displaced people.
“Please show the reality. People have lost everything, even the future of their children. What’s happening in Lebanon is a crime against humanity.”
Despite being physically and morally exhausted from the scale of destruction facing Lebanon, those working with MS have chosen to stay and help those most in need.
Staff and volunteers are using various methods to raise morale among those sheltering from the bombing and are encouraging participation in communal cleaning and cooking.
“We are trying to make them take action so they feel they are doing something positive to change the situation,” said Kolakez. “People are very tired and worried about their homes. [But] there is a feeling that they are one big family.”
After a fortnight of bombing and blockades from the sea and air, stocks of food and medicines are running out in many areas of Lebanon. Beirut’s fire engines have been distributing drinking water on a daily basis to the 180 schools in the city that are serving as makeshift shelters.
There is a serious shortage of mattresses and bedding as well as toothpaste, nappies for children over six months, and underwear. Many fled their homes so quickly they had no time to collect any of their belongings.
“We will be okay for food and water for another week… we have enough basic medicine supplies for one more week but if something urgent comes up then not so long,” added Kolakez.
MS is also helping people cope emotionally with their new circumstances and maintain their human dignity. Kolakez, herself a psychologist, said:
“We want to let refugees know that losing their houses doesn”t mean that they have lost their dignity. Every person has rights and we are helping to give them their rights.”
With emergency funding from Christian Aid, Mouvement Social is providing help to 3,000 internally-displaced people, shelter in schools, food, milk, clothes and sanitary items.
“The war should end because it is not the solution – it never was the solution,” said Kolakez. “People and children are dying, families are dying…”