POLICY Statement

September 25, 2020: Overseas Lebanese Overcome Many Challenges to Provide Humanitarian Relief to Lebanon

September 25, 2020

Through the efforts of Direct Relief, FedEx, Anera, and the Ghassan and Manal Saab Foundation, the American Task Force on Lebanon (ATFL) coordinated an airlift of some $12.7 worth of medicines and supplies to Beirut in August. Preparations for a second flight, however, were delayed until Sam Mraiche, President and CEO of MHCare in Canada generously offered to provide a cargo plane through his ties with Cargojet from Hamilton, Ontario to Istanbul, Turkey. The team was able to secure the support of Middle East Airlines (MEA) to arrange the final leg by adding passenger flights between Istanbul and Beirut to transship the medical supplies. 

Mraiche had already delivered two relief flights direct to Beirut but faced similar clearance challenges in securing a permit for his third flight. Through his vast network he was able to connect the various groups necessary to move this product across four countries to get it to the final destination. Meanwhile, Emirates Air agreed to carry small shipments of urgently needed cancer meds and medical supplies on their passenger jets from several US cities.

Pallets of medical relief destined for Lebanon.

Pallets are offloaded in Beirut.

FedEx, which provided air transport for the first Lebanon Relief Project airlift on August 24, again stepped into the gap and arranged for its trucks to carry supplies gathered by the Afya Foundation from warehouses in New York to Canada. Afya has been receiving large quantities of donated supplies, storing, and coordinating shipping and logistics to ensure those supplies reach Beirut efficiently and effectively through air and sea freight. Once in Beirut, the supplies are managed by Anera, which offloads the shipments, clears customs, and distributes the various earmarked materials to Beirut hospitals of the nearly $6 million worth of medications from Direct Relief via Emirates Air, or by Afya Foundation for the Cargojet shipment.

The Lebanon Relief Project depends on an extensive network of volunteers to gather and prepare the desperately needed medicines and supplies. Principal among those is Manal Saab, a long-time board member of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, who remarked, “There are many hearts suffering for Lebanon and we are all in this together. Thanks to the leadership of ATFL, Rashal Baz Zureikat founder of Lebanon Relief Project, and the Afya Foundation, along with the ongoing generosity of FedEx, we were able to transcend borders across three countries and extend our healing hands to Beirut hospitals.”

ATFL President Edward Gabriel added, “This effort represents the love that we overseas Lebanese in the US and Canada have for that special country. We are grateful for the volunteers and companies that joined in this humanitarian effort which will continue for quite some time. The Project relies on creative and hard-working people in our community to make this work despite the many challenges that are encountered. We are indebted to those volunteers here and in Lebanon that are vital to the successful impact of the program.”

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