Lebanon: every second counts

07.08.2020 - Interview

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas assures Lebanon of rapid assistance. He underscores, however, that the country’s political leaders need to show real will to reform. Published in the Saarbrücker Zeitung.

Minister, Beirut and Lebanon are in ruins. How will Germany help?

Following this cruel stroke of fate, we are helping in rapid, targeted and non‑bureaucratic fashion. First, we need to work to alleviate the greatest hardship. A team from the Federal Agency for Technical Relief headed for Beirut as early as Wednesday evening and is helping to rescue those buried under the rubble. Here every second counts.

What else is the Federal Government doing?

We, the Federal Foreign Office, have made available 1.5 million euro to the German Red Cross as emergency aid. It will use this funding to bring medical supplies such as equipment for doctors and medication to Beirut, as well as emergency shelters for the homeless. The Bundeswehr is also in Beirut and has begun to plan a potential field hospital and MedEvac flights. We are also helping through the European Union. The European Commission has pledged 33 million euro of emergency aid.

Does the international community not also need to step up?

No country can tackle such a disaster on its own. Internationally and in the European Union, we need to think about how to provide further assistance: supplying food and emergency shelter, as well as rebuilding the port and city.

What does the disaster mean for the people in Lebanon?

People in Lebanon were driven to despair even before the disaster. The country was in the throes of the most serious economic crisis in its history. The COVID‑19 pandemic had a firm grip on the country, the numbers have recently increased again. Now many people are literally standing amidst the rubble of what was once their livelihood. We need to stand by them at this difficult time.

Can we trust the Lebanese Government given that it ran the country into the ground?

In Lebanon, the political leadership has not yet managed to tackle the urgently needed reform in the economic and financial sector with sufficient clout. We have been conducting dialogue for some time and remain ready to lend support in the talks with the International Monetary Fund. But for that, there has to be real will to reform.

Do you see this will?

What we need to focus on now is alleviating the suffering of those affected. We are gearing what we are doing to the needs of the people in the country. As a major humanitarian donor in Lebanon, we have a dense network of aid organisations that we work with to bring help to the people.

Interview: Hagen Strauss



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