“My city is ruined but I am proud to be Lebanese”

While international support is being decided on Sunday at the UN and Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab is proposing early parliamentary elections, in the field, NGOs are working tirelessly. The task is enormous. Testimony from Beirutine Patricia Khoder, from NGO Care.

Beirut woke up for the fifth day in a row in the middle of the rubble, with a crater 43 meters deep in its heart. Less than a week after the double explosion that occurred on August 4 in the port area and left more than 150 dead and about 6,000 injured, the rescue service is still trying to find possible survivors. When international aid travels to the Lebanese capital, volunteers and NGOs working in the field are hard at work. As Patricia Khoder, Head of Communications NGO Care and living in Beirut, contacted by France 24, who admits he is still in “shock”.

France 24: How did you experience this double explosion?

Patricia Khoder: I was in the office of NGO Care, in the district of Badaro, [dans le centre d’affaire au cœur de la ville] at the time of the explosions. We heard two large explosions, we first thought it was an attack on the building where we were. Then we went out and saw a huge mushroom in the sky. I immediately went to the port and I could see that neighborhoods of Gemmayzé, Achrafiyé, Dora or even Mar Mikhael had been blown away, there was nothing left. I immediately listened to the news and understood that Beirut was gone, that my city had left. These are neighborhoods where I lived, where I grew up. My whole youth was there.

Four days after the tragedy, I’m still in shock. You can not feel anything. Since the explosions, I have only slept 12 hours. I can not sleep, I can not even cry, I still do not know what happened. I discover every day that a person I loved has died, that a place has disappeared. We still need a lot of time to find out human, material and more to start mourning.

I manage to hold on thanks to my work in NGO Care. Since Tuesday, I have fully focused on my assignment. The fact that we can deliver food, raise funds for Lebanon is what is most important to me now.

What have you been doing in NGOs since the explosions?

I take care of communication, but I have been in the field for two days, distributing food through local NGOs that are very active and, thanks to the help of Care France, for the neighbors most affected by the disease. explosion. These are neighborhoods in the middle of gentrification, but which are mainly inhabited by poor people, who have nothing and have nowhere to go.

We have started distributing food packages where you can find rice, flour, pasta but also canned food that can be eaten immediately because many of the victims no longer have a home or kitchen. They’re on the street. We started with food, but we hope to be able to distribute many other things quickly. Lebanon needs everything and now: medicines – two hospitals have been blown up and are no longer in operation – field hospitals, clothes, mattresses, sheets, beds, etc. We also lack some materials to rebuild. In particular, there is a shortage of glass because all the windows in the city have been smashed and there is not enough glass in the country to meet demand. Meanwhile, the Lebanese put cardboard, plexiglass, others simply have nothing and continue to sleep in their homes without roofs or facades so as not to be robbed of what little they have left.

Others simply no longer have a home. 300,000 people live on the streets. But in two months the first rains will come, the cold too. We need to find solutions for them.

How do you see the future?

I’m not thinking about the future. I have no tomorrow, I’m like my city. There is a very strong trauma that prevents you from projecting yourself in time. But the Lebanese are strong, they are a worthy people. I was very surprised to see their resilience: the day after the explosions, people cleaned the streets and cleaned up rubbish. It is very difficult to break the will of the Lebanese.

This does not remove the difficulty of our new daily life. I lived through the war in Beirut but I never saw anything of this size. But what I see around me makes me proud, my city is destroyed, it is on the ground, but when I see the solidarity that is organized around me, when I see this will to clean up, to continue and move on. forward but if we do not have a tomorrow I say to myself that I am proud of my people, proud to be Lebanese.

We are obviously very sensitive to messages coming from all over the world. We need courage, the hope of the whole world. We have lived without hope for a long time. Today, more than ever, we need the hope of the whole world. And it is the international community that will give it back to us. Therefore, it is necessary to make donations to international NGOs and Lebanese associations to help Beirut recover.