Restoring damaged housed and rebuilding businesses
70,000 damaged houses. This is the most visible effect of the explosion in Beirut last summer. Many businesses are also damaged. Sole proprietorships are severely hit. The Joint Response in Lebanon assists with repairing houses and supports business owners to restore their business.
“The biggest challenge was to repair the houses before winter,” says Rami. He is a civil engineer and joined the construction team of Save the Children directly after the explosion.. “The residents of Beirut lost their homes and livelihoods. This touched me and therefore I started doing humanitarian work. I want to use my experience and knowledge to support the community.”
Stressful situation at home
Souad’s home is one of the homes the construction team repairs. She lives together with her father, sister and her niece who is 4 years old. “All windows broke during the explosion. We were afraid. My father was hospitalised in one of the hospitals nearby the harbour. My nephew picked him up and brought him home. He was covered in blood and scratches.”
The family is suffering from severe trauma due to the blast. “It’s sad that all generations had to experience this. We carry it with us for the rest of our lives,” says Souad. “My niece keeps asking about the explosion. She links everything that’s happening around the house to the explosion. It’s a very stressful situation. But most important, we are safe.”
Souad’s home is not ready for winter but the constructions team is working hard to finish the customised materials before winter breaks. Employees of SADA, the local partner of Save the Children, regularly visits the area where Souad lives. They have built relationships with the inhabitants there. They not only assess the damage, but also offer a sympathetic ear.
Alone during the explosion
Souads neighbour Sami lives alone and appears lonely. SADA’s visit clearly benefits him. The memories of the explosion are vague in his head. He blends them with an attack at a school, that he experienced when he was little. The windows are broken and being replaced by the construction team. Also, his plumbing did not function properly and there were issues with the waterpipes. These issues have been fixed.
Despite everything that has happened, Sami still feels comfortable in his home. “I have been through a lot, but I am still strong. I am not afraid. As long as God is on my side, I do not lose hope. I live day by day.”
Loss of income
Due to the explosion many people did not only lose their house, but also their source of income. This is also the case for Rana. Rana is an entrepreneur and has a clothing shop in one of the affected areas in Beirut. Just after a customer left her shop, she heard an enormous bang. She went outside and due to the power of the explosion, was thrown back into the store. Rana, injured and bleeding went straight home, to see her two daughters. She found them in the bathroom, together with the cat, not hurt, but in panic.
The next day she went back to her store. The explosion caused chaos inside; windows were shattered and the waterpipe exploded. “I immediately started cleaning my shop. I remember that I was crying. I was so pleased that I was outside and not inside when the explosion occurred” says Rana.
IRC, the partner of Stichting Vluchteling, assists entrepreneurs like Rana to rebuild their business. Rana restored the front of the shop herself and IRC provided the materials to fix the ceiling, paint the shop and restock the store. Rana’s shop is open again, but she still notices the consequences of the explosion, “customers are still returning with small holes in their clothes due to glass shards”.
The residents of Beirut are doing their utmost to overcome the consequences of the explosion. They work hard to rebuild their houses and businesses. Despite this traumatic event, the people are resilient and determined to get back on track.
This article is part three, and final part, of a trilogy about the Joint Response project in Beirut. This article focuses Save the Children, with partner SADA, and Stichting Vluchteling, with partner IRC, and highlights part of their work.
A total of six (6) Dutch organisations are involved in the Joint Response in Beirut. These are CARE, Cordaid, Dorcas, Save the Children, Stichting Vluchteling and World Vision. Below is an overview of the themes these organisations are working on in Lebanon: