A Devastating Humanitarian Crisis — How Lebanon’s People, Including My Family, Are Suffering


My grandmother moved from Ghana, Africa to Lebanon when she was about five years old and later moved to Saudi Arabia.

Olivia Fuchs, Staff Reporter

My grandmother, a former citizen of Lebanon, is now living in America. She says that when she calls her sister, which she often does, the phone call gets abruptly cut off because the internet in Lebanon goes down, a repercussion of the fuel shortage. She tries to talk to her sister nearly every day, but even though her sister’s house was nowhere near the capital—where one of the largest non-nuclear explosions to date occurred—the lack of fuel allows her just two hours using the internet a day.

The internet limitations that have impacted my grandmother and her relatives are just a few of the effects of the explosion that occurred in Lebanon in August of 2020. Even though the explosion did not physically damage the entire country of Lebanon, it caused an economic crisis that spiraled into a plethora of other crises, impacting the whole country economically, socially, and politically. 

Lebanon, a small West Asian country bordered by Israel, Syria, and the Mediterranean Sea, has been facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that is escalating exponentially. The Lebanese lira, Lebanon’s currency, has lost over ninety percent of its value since 2019, even though prior to that, its currency was reasonably stable. They are currently facing the repercussions of an ammonium nitrate explosion that happened in summer 2020, rendering their capital city, Beirut, a mess of rubble.

The Beirut explosion left an estimated 300,000 people homeless and affected nearly 200,000 homes, leaving upwards of a devastating 4% of the total Lebanese population homeless. A small country of just 6.856 million people like Lebanon simply does not have the means to recover when an estimated 85 million dollars would be needed just for emergency shelter for the victims, let alone total recovery.

Recently, there was a fuel tank explosion that killed 28 people. The Lebanese just cannot seem to catch a break; they try to recover, but crises keep pushing them down again. 

The various catastrophes Lebanon has suffered all directly affect each other because citizens are struggling to pay for food and basic necessities. Combined with the thousands of homes destroyed as a result of the explosion, a crippled economy has left unprecedented numbers of Lebanese citizens to struggle in poverty with no home to find refuge. 

The lack of fuel is a cause for concern because while many in America take fuel for granted, we must realize that it is vital for any healthy society to function. With no fuel, the Lebanese people have no traffic lights. No running refrigerators or freezers. No air conditioning. No transportation. No internet. 

No hospital, either. That is horrifying, considering all the injuries that those who were harmed in the fuel tank explosion sustained. 

My mother is one hundred percent Middle Eastern and was born in the Middle East, but immigrated with her parents when she was a small child. However, not all of my family decided to make the move to America. Currently, I still have family living there, and the Beirut explosion directly affected them. 

I personally really identify with my Middle Eastern heritage, and it is something I am extremely proud of. It hurts to know what the Lebanese are going through right now, and it hurts even worse to know that there is such little awareness of their situation. Being Middle Eastern is genuinely a part of who I am, and I hope to one day travel to the Middle East to help the Lebanese and give them my time and effort because it is truly the least I can do for them, especially because the culture is so beautiful, which is something I’ve had the privilege of enjoying in my day to day life, with my family members. 

Lebanese culture is a huge part of my life and always has been, but it became especially significant once I started teaching myself Arabic. It just became more prevalent in my life, and I became even more interested in my heritage, and that is largely why I want to share this with people and raise awareness. The amount of empathy I feel for the Lebanese who currently suffer from repercussions from the humanitarian crisis overwhelms me, so I genuinely cannot fathom how they are feeling right now. 

“When I lived there, it was the best time of my life,” my grandmother explained. “I loved it. I loved it. It was very safe to live there.” Now, she just doesn’t think Lebanon is the same, and that is a heartbreaking realization for her. 

I have cousins who owned intricate jewelry shops, and they were all devastated during the explosion. “The stores were demolished, literally, there were no stores anymore. They were rubbles,” said my grandmother, heartbroken for her family members. 

My great-grandmother’s home suffered severe damage as well. It was a beautiful, luxurious house before, and every window was shattered, leaving glass shards scattered across the floor and furniture and belongings obliterated, too far gone to repair. 

My family was lucky enough to escape fatalities or injuries because they had decided to take a trip up to the mountains, but it stings a little more when these things are so close to home. “Thank God, they weren’t home. None of them were,” my grandmother said, beyond grateful for the well-being of her family. “We were very grateful because everybody was calling to find out if they were alive or dead, and thank God, nobody was in [their houses] that day.”

As an ethnically Lebanese woman, I see so many people on social media and in my daily life just ignoring the issues in the Middle East and normalizing the war and violence there. My aunts and uncles could have died, and it makes me wonder why news like this is so under the radar. More people should be talking about it, spreading awareness. 

We live in a world, or more specifically, a country, where we don’t see the grim things happening around us every day, and that is dangerous. 

When we have the luxury of choosing not to see these things, we are absolutely privileged. We get to choose whether or not we want to hear about or read an article about some faraway explosion, while the Lebanese were forced to watch their home go up into a giant mushroom of smoke and flames. 

Either no one realizes how bad the situation in Lebanon is, or no one cares enough to do anything. Regardless, that makes me extremely concerned for our world and the people in it. There are so many ways for people to help, even if financial donations are not an option. 

To help, one could watch a YouTube video where the proceeds go to Lebanon, donate to the Red Cross or another organization that helps Lebanon, donate blood to help the people in Lebanon, donate food, or volunteer to help. The options are endless. 

In sharing my opinions on this topic, I hope to shed light on this issue and encourage other people to take action. I have to have faith in our community and trust that at the end of the day, we are all people, and we are all in this together. 

And I hope that is enough.