Mon, 28 Sep 2020

World leaders on Sunday pledged more than 250 million euros for disaster-struck Lebanon, with the emergency aid to be delivered "directly" to a population reeling from last week's devastating port blast in Beirut.

Fifteen government leaders including US President Donald Trump took part in the virtual conference hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and the UN, pledging solidarity with the Lebanese people and promising to muster "major resources" in the coming days and weeks.

A joint statement issued after the meeting in which representatives of nearly 30 countries as well as the EU and Arab League participated, did not mention a global amount.

But Macron's office said the total figure of "emergency aid pledged or that can be mobilised quickly" amounts to 252.7 million euros, including 30 million euros from France.

President Macron was the first world leader to visit the former French colony after Tuesday's devastating explosion of a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate which killed more than 150 people, wounded some 6,000 and left an estimated 300,000 homeless.

Global concern about governance

The joint statement from the world leaders and their representatives underscored concerns about Lebanese government corruption.

"The participants agreed that their assistance should be timely, sufficient and consistent with the needs of the Lebanese people, well-coordinated under the leadership of the United Nations, and directly delivered to the Lebanese population, with utmost efficiency and transparency," it said.

USAID acting administrator John Barsa also said in a conference call Sunday that American help, some $15 million announced so far, "is absolutely not going to the government."

The donor nations urged Lebanon's authorities to "fully commit themselves to timely measures and reforms" in order to unlock longer-term support for the country's economic and financial recovery.

And they said assistance for "an impartial, credible and independent inquiry" into Tuesday's explosion "is immediately needed and available, upon request of Lebanon."

The UN says at least 100 million euros will be needed for an emergency response over the next three months, for health services, temporary shelter, food distribution and programmes to prevent the further spread of Covid-19, among other interventions.

Anger on the streets of Beirut

At least 21 people are still missing from the huge blast, and the Lebanese army said Sunday hopes of finding survivors are dwindling.

Lebanese people enraged by official negligence blamed for the explosion have taken to the streets in anti-government protests that have resulted in clashes with the army.

President Macron said it was now up to the authorities in Lebanon "to act so that the country does not collapse, and to respond to the aspirations that the Lebanese people are expressing right now, legitimately, in the streets of Beirut.

"We must all work together to ensure that neither violence nor chaos prevail," he added. "It is the future of Lebanon that is at stake."

Orginally published on RFI

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