Denton charity helps bring relief after chemical explosion in Beirut

DENTON-BASED Syria Relief has been providing humanitarian aid in Lebanon following the recent enormous chemical explosion in Beirut that killed at least 200 people and left 350,000 homeless.

The charity already had an office in Beirut because 1.5 million displaced Syrians are based in Lebanon, one in four of the country’s population are refugees.

Charles Lawley, Syria Relief’s head of advocacy, said: “Through our efforts in Syria, we have the capacity to respond to emergencies.

“We have the knowledge and it was the right thing to extend our work after this disaster.”

Charles, who went to Beirut to help co-ordinate the efforts, was taken aback by what he witnessed in the wake of the explosion on August 4 involving more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate which was stored at Beirut’s port.

He said: “I have seen a lot of disasters in Syria but nothing of this scale and the impact was huge.

“It was different in nature to what has happened in Syria, but the effects were similar in that it left so many people homeless.”

Syria Relief distributed food parcels and hygiene kits while their workers helped repair damaged homes.

The charity is also providing psychologists to work with children traumatised by what they had experienced.

Charles added Lebanon was in the grip of an economic crisis before the explosion with unemployment 40 per cent pre Covid-19.

And he explained coronavirus and the explosion has made an already the plight of residents even more perilous with resources stretched.

“One hospital was so badly damaged it could not be used while another one had a significant number of Covid patients which restricted admissions,” he said.

Charles pointed out the cost of providing aid in Beirut has been met by the generosity of the public in response to appeals for money.

Syria Relief was formed in 2011 by a group of Lebanese doctors working in the NHS in response to the humanitarian crisis in the region.

It operates 306 schools in Syria and 12 hospitals and healthcare centre making it one of the biggest Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) with its accounts for 2018 showing a turnover of more than £22 million.

It has offices in North West and North East Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan.

Denton, where there are 20 staff, has been its base since July 2018 following a move from premises in Whalley Range.

Anybody wishing to contribute to Syria Relief can do so online at syriarelief.org.uk or by telephoning 0161 860 0163.

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