Donor Countries Pledge Millions in Aid to Lebanon
A video-linked effort led by French President Emmanuel Macron for blast-stricken Lebanon has raised about $300 million in pledges for immediate assistance from donor countries, Elysee Palace said in a statement late Sunday. The funds will cover immediate aid in the aftermath of Tuesday’s Beirut explosion, which left over 150 dead, many missing, thousands injured and 300,000 homeless, at least in the short term. The blast is being blamed on tons of highly volatile ammonium nitrate that was improperly stored at the port for years after being offloaded from a cargo vessel abandoned by its owner. The French statement said the “assistance should be timely, sufficient and consistent with the needs of the Lebanese people… and directly delivered to the Lebanese population, with utmost efficiency and transparency.” Macron, who made a lightning solidarity visit to Beirut on Thursday, has suggested that delivery be overseen by the United Nations. The assistance is unconditional, although longer-term aid for the country, badly needed in light of a crumbling economy, will require reforms being sought by much of the populace. Participants in mass street protests taking place since last fall have been demanding an end to government ineptitude, corruption and paralyzing political patronage brought on by decades of stiffly enforced sectarian rule.