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Virtual aid summit raises $300m for Lebanon

Destroyed buildings are seen after a fire at a warehouse with explosives at the Port of Beirut led to massive blasts on 6 August 2020 [Mahmut Geldi/Anadolu Agency]
Destroyed buildings are seen after a fire at a warehouse with explosives at the Port of Beirut led to massive blasts on 6 August 2020 [Mahmut Geldi/Anadolu Agency]

A group of more than 36 nations and international institutions have pledged nearly $300 million in humanitarian aid for Lebanon during a virtual aid summit held on Sunday after a massive explosion devastated the capital, Beirut, earlier last week.

The explosion took place after 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, stored improperly in Beirut’s port for years, ignited. The disaster has killed more than 200 people and injured thousands more.

The funds are set to be “directly delivered to the Lebanese population”, according to a joint statement made by the donor nations after the virtual conference, through the UN and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), rather than the Lebanese government.

The unusual move comes after thousands of Lebanese mobbed French President Emmanuel Macron during his visit to Beirut on Thursday, to voice concerns aid delivered to politicians would be siphoned or stolen by corrupt officials.

The French president headed the virtual summit, and said the money would be used to help rebuild the healthcare, education and housing sectors, and to support food security, Al Jazeera reported.

READ: France helping Lebanon investigate Beirut port blasts

Macron announced France would donate €50 million ($59 million), with the rest of the emergency fund made up by a pledge of €63 million ($74 million) from the European Commission, as well as $50 million from Qatar and $41 million from Kuwait, among others.

Unlike aid pledged during previous donor conferences for Lebanon, the $300 million is an emergency fund to help the country deal with the aftermath of last week’s explosion and is not reform-conditional.

However, French politicians have been quick to call on Lebanon to enact reforms that protesters have been demanding since October.

During the conference, Macron told the donor nations, “the Lebanese authorities must now implement political and economic reforms demanded by the Lebanese people and which alone will enable the international community to act effectively alongside Lebanon for reconstruction”, according to Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, in the wake of Lebanon’s government resignation yesterday, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian released a statement calling for “the swift formation of a government”.

Le Drian added that a new government should “prove its effectiveness” by enacting “reforms without which the country is heading towards an economic, social and political collapse”.

READ: Lebanon refuses to release bodies of blast victims with outstanding parking tickets

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