Local NGOs rally to rebuild Beirut in wake of port explosion

Lebanon’s political instability, failing economy, and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the Lebanese pound to lose 80% of its value, since August, according to the Associated Press.

Many Lebanese nationals have turned to real estate during this time of crisis, in a bid to safeguard their money.

According to Bank Audi, in the first five months of 2020, residential real estate sales increased rose more than 50 percent, valuing the overall real estate market at $3.7 billion in May.

Moreover, according to Lebanon’s General Directorate of Land Registry, real estate transactions jumped more than 16% in the first quarter of this year.

However, August’s port explosion in Beirut led to an estimated 70,000 destroyed houses, 40,000 damaged buildings and 30,000 people being displaced.

Local action

The International Monetary Fund said in April that Lebanon’s economy is expected to shrink 12% in 2020.

The government also announced a plan aimed at restoring positive growth in 2022 and promised assistance for the needy, yet many remain skeptical.

An IMF emergency bailout for the country is also still pending approval following many rounds of negotiation.

In the meantime, local non-profit organisations have been rolling up their sleeves to help rebuild their communities.

Some Beirut NGOs have raised around $10 million to help reconstruct the city. Eddy Bitar is the co-founder of Live Love Lebanon, and he estimates that the destruction of residential areas could total $5 billion.

Personal cost

Twenty-six-year-old civil engineer Rayan Aouad is one of many who lost his home during the summer’s explosion. He also lost his family’s restaurant, and with it, his financial security.

Aouad predicts that his house, in the Geitawi neighborhood of the city, will cost around $4,000 to repair, alongside his parent’s damaged house which will cost $6,000.

Despite the mounting costs, Aouad remains determined to not only rebuild his family’s home but also his personal happiness. This resulted in him proposing to his girlfriend with a banner bearing the words, “Will you rebuild the future with me?”

Building hope

Aoud is currently volunteering as a civil engineer in Lebanon, and he claims that basic materials such as glass and aluminum are difficult to come by.

“Orders that used to take 1 to 2 days are now taking a week to ten days,” he told Euronews. “This is delaying our progress. Secondly, the suppliers are taking advantage of the situation and they’re raising their prices.”

With increased demand for construction materials, many Lebanese building traders have been hit with increased import charges.

Hussain Mahdi is a building materials supplier and he states that Lebanon relies on approximately 80% of glass imports and around 50% of aluminum from countries like the United States, Jordan and Egypt.

He believes that some companies are raising prices for construction materials as an attempt to monopolize the market, adding to the challenges Lebanon faces in rebuilding its capital city.

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