Guilt-torn Lebanese expats send aid as crisis hits home

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Dubai (AFP)

Lebanese expats in the wealthy UAE, many of whom are torn with guilt, scramble to ship essentials and medicine to family and friends in their crisis-ridden home country.

“How can I sit in the comfort of my home with air conditioning and a full fridge knowing that my people, friends and family are struggling to come home?” »Jennifer Houchaime asked.

“Oh, the guilt is very, very real,” said the 33-year-old resident of Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates, which is home to tens of thousands of Lebanese.

“It’s guilt, shame, and longing.”

The Lebanese economy has collapsed under a long-standing political class accused of incompetence and corruption.

Its currency plunged to an all-time low, causing inflation and eroding the purchasing power of a population deprived of free access to its own savings through strict banking controls.

Lebanon is short of everything from fuel and gas to medicine and bread, and more than three-quarters of its population now live below the poverty line.

Social media platforms are filled with posts from Lebanese calling for contacts overseas to send basic items such as formula, diapers, pain relievers, coffee and sanitary napkins.

– ‘Fill the gap’ –

Human Rights Watch researcher Aya Majzoub said confidence in the Lebanese government was at an all-time low.

“It is not surprising that local and grassroots initiatives have emerged to fill this gap while bypassing the government they see as corrupt, inefficient and incompetent,” she told AFP.

Without confidence in the Lebanese authorities, the expatriates took on the task of transporting the aid.

Houchaime and a number of his Lebanese friends fill their bags with medicines and over-the-counter food items every time they return home.

Dubai-based Emirates airline is allowing an additional 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of luggage for passengers to Beirut from select destinations until the end of this month.

For Dima Hage Hassan, 33, a trip to Lebanon opened his eyes to the ongoing disaster.

“I was in Lebanon, I had money, I had a car with fuel, and I went from drugstore to drugstore without finding any medicine for my mother’s ear infection,” she said. declared.

– “Do our part” –

Fellow Lebanese, Sarah Hassan, packed her bags for her second return trip in less than two months, taking only a few personal effects while the rest went to family and friends.

This time the 26-year-old was taking a few battery-powered ventilators, pain relievers, sanitary napkins, skin creams, and cold and flu medication.

“A few of my friends are also going to Lebanon, so we are all doing our part.”

It’s the same story in other parts of the Gulf, where the Lebanese have long resided, fleeing decades of conflict and instability in their own country.

“It’s hard not to feel guilty. When I went to Lebanon a month ago, I hadn’t been there for two years. When I entered the city, I was so shocked,” Hassan said.

“Then you come back here to the comfort of your home and everything is at your fingertips… it’s such an overwhelming sense of guilt.”

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