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“Massive” “Colossal” “Immense” and 305,140 Lebanese


“Massive” “Colossal” and “Immense” – words that inadequately describe the magnitude of the explosion which convulsed Beirut, Lebanon, three days ago. With the force of an early atomic bomb, 2,700 tons of highly combustible ammonium nitrate ignited in the congested port city. Some 140 people were instantly incinerated, 5,000 people packed hospitals suffering from unspeakable burns and traumatic injuries. And 300,000 returned to homes of rubble.


Who are these 305,140 Lebanese people? Like you and I, they are fathers, children, mothers, infants, grandchildren and nephews. But unlike you and I, these 305,140 are among Beirut’s most impoverished, low-paid, and often powerless citizens. Disasters disproportionately afflict those who are poor, and Beirut is only the most recent example of marginalized persons recently assailed by calamity in Congo, Puerto Rico, Syria, Haiti and Yemen.


What is the lesson for we who advocate on behalf of such people? In the long-term, we must promote community development. As communities grow in economic, educational and health resources, their resilience to disaster and capacity to recover grows in parallel. Witness the swiftness with which the American northeast recovered from SuperStrom Sandy.


In the short-term, we also must promptly mobilize in response to disasters. At this moment, people in Beirut are fractured, scalded, separated and hungry. Reputable organizations like the World Food Program are already on location providing immediate relief. We should feel privileged to support them. Would that “Massive” “Colossal” and “Immense” be the words describing our actions today and dedication tomorrow on behalf of these 305,140 Lebanese people.

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