After several weeks of communication and preparation, a total of 10,000 masks, 500 isolation gowns and 100 PPE were finally shipped from France to Lebanon. Upon arrival, boxes of aid supplies were hurriedly moved into the storeroom of the Jesuit medical clinic. Despite the small size of the clinic, it has shouldered the huge responsibility of caring for the health of the locals and disaster victims.
Help arriving from France
Lebanon was ruled by France between the First and Second World War. After becoming independent in 1964, the country has maintained close relationship with France.
The new coronavirus pandemic had spread across the globe in 2020, leaving no countries unaffected, including Lebanon. While the world was reeling from the impact of the pandemic, San Simon was rocked by an ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut port warehouse on August 4. After the blast, many locals had become unemployed and without water nor power supply at home. Local charity organization, Foutowa Islamic Association had sought help from Tzu Chi and became the 116th country to receive aid relief from Tzu Chi.
Meanwhile, Tzu Chi volunteers in France had continued to provide support and care for local communities and healthcare workers, including Dr Samir Atallah, a Lebanese doctor acquainted to Tzu Chi volunteer, Feng Qian Ming. After the explosion, Tzu Chi France volunteers had expressed their concern about the situation in Beirut through Dr Samir.
Dr Samir happenecd to know the priest of the Roman Catholic Jesuit, Father Gabriel Khairallah who was conducting relief work at the disaster zone in Beirut. Jesuit, also known as the Society of Jesus, has always places great emphasis on education and charity. While Father Gabriel teaches in school, he is also actively helping and supporting disaster victims.
The place where Father Gabriel teaches is in the heavily affected Karantina area. He has led volunteers to provide 2,400 aid services to the disaster victims in Karantina every month. The priest has also been providing 350 lunch boxes every day, and he encourages school children to participate in the preparation together. The church also cares for 150 elderly by providing them with free meals, medical treatments, and medicine prescriptions. In addition to that, they have also worked with Red Cross and St. Vincent to care for the disaster victims and see to the status of the rebuilding of their homes.
Due to insufficient medical resources and epidemic prevention items, Father Gabriel had written to Tzu Chi at the end of November to request for supply of epidemic preventive items to be provided to the victims and members of Jesuit. The request by Father Gabriel was swiftly responded by Tzu Chi volunteers who started packing the needed items to be delivered to Beirut. However, due to political instability in Lebanon, it became more difficult to import goods into the country. To ensure that the relief items are safely delivered, Father Gabriel had contacted a local charity organization to assist with the transportation of the aid materials.
The preventive items finally arrived safely on 10 December.
“Masks, isolation gowns and PPE are all very much needed here,” said Father Gabriel. He then immediately tried on the isolation gowns and masks with a few other medical staff and were impressed by the quality of the items.
Lebanon is still under lockdown due to the pandemic. Fortunately, there are Jesuit members who are delivering meals to the elderly and disaster victims. Volunteers hope that the epidemic prevention items would enable them to carry on with their charitable mission with a peace of mind. Tzu Chi will also continue to provide care and support to the Jesuits.