PERSONAL STORY 1
As we did our research on the experience of Corona in Lebanon, one of the conversations we have had, was with Emily. Emily is a Dutch woman who currently works as the regional project manager of an NGO organization which focuses on supporting refugees in their education and job finding. For the sake of privacy, we will call this NGO: Hope. She has been doing this job for quite some years and before this, she has worked for different NGO's, UNICEF, to name one. At UNICEF, she also worked with refugees from Syria. I guess we can say she has quite a lot of experience in this field.
At Hope, the target group is mostly between the age of 18-24 years old. Both Lebanese citizens and (Syrian) refugees can get scholarships to at Hope. With this scholarship, they can get the opportunity to study. Hope also offers training in areas like resume writing, e-mail writing and starting a business. When students are done with their studies, Spark supports them in finding a job.
We hear Emily's elated, benign voice coming through our computer speakers, as we start our Skype call. My study partner and I, are behind our computer screens at home due to corona restrictions. Emily right away comes across as a very open, well-meaning, knowledgeable woman.
Emily tells us about the situation in Lebanon right now and how things were before the Covid-19 crisis. Before the COVID-19 crisis, Lebanon was not free of problems. Lebanon had been unstable for a while. While the refugee crisis from some years ago made a large part of Lebanon's population refugee (2019 officially: 929.624 refugees, while it is most likely the real number is much higher, about 1,5 million or more) this problem has kind of moved to the background because many Lebanese have come to need aid as well. Lebanon has fallen into a massive financial crisis. Prices are sky-high, import goods are unaffordable. Once steady businesses and hotels, have now gone bankrupt. People have lost their jobs, there were heavy protests of Lebanese citizens who want to overthrow the government, which turned into riots.
When Covid-19 came, it came as a crisis, on top of a crisis's. Lebanon went into a strict lockdown and kept its death rates very low. As we all know by now, the corona-crisis is not good for the economy. In Lebanon, which is already in a financial crisis, the effects of corona only amplified this. As you can imagine, the number of tourists in Lebanon has decreased massively. A large part of Lebanon's business is in the tourist sector, which has suffered a lot due to the corona-crisis.
For Emily, the lockdown was not too horrible. She had more time off, which for her meant, more time to cook, clean. These are the things she enjoys. Before COVID-19, Emily was very busy, she tells us that her friends were as well. When we ask her about the effect of COVID-19 on her friends, she answers us that they are also enjoying the spare time they now have. Her friends were just like her, very busy working people.
At Hope, however, corona had a pretty significant impact. Sixty per cent of the funding they expected to receive to carry out their aid, has now moved to corona emergency organizations. According to Emily, this is a problem many NGO's are facing right now.
A few weeks later we have our second interview with Emily. This time she has some news. She had stepped into a big piece of glass and injured her foot. This at first, obviously, very painful situation, turned into a pretty interesting story once her foot was stitched up. Going to the hospital during Corona times is not the same as before as you would expect. All the nurses and doctors that helped Emily were in full protective gear. Imagine bodysuit, mask, plastic shield in front of face and gloves. Before she could be helped, she had to make sure she was Corona-negative, which resulted in her awaiting treatment for 12 hours in a room, alone. That is how long it takes until the outcome of the Corona test is determined. Luckily Emily got back a negative result, and her foot was treated in more close to normal and comfortable circumstances. When the outcome would have been positive, she would also have been treated, though in more of the same setting as she was in the first 12 hours of the hospitalization, and in a separate wing of the hospital.
Emily now has even more restrictive circumstances to live in for a couple of weeks, since she has to keep her foot up pretty much all day. Luckily she has friends coming over to help her and give her food.
She keeps positive, while we know her salary has also been cut in half, she does not complain about this much. She tells us there are much poorer people in Lebanon who suffer more. There are people stuck in houses with domestic violence, children and women are especially vulnerable. She hears about rates which say that 70% of people in Lebanon experience malnutrition right now.
When the lockdown was implemented, the demonstrations which have been going on since October were paused. Some citizens were saying the government implemented such a strong lockdown to silence the protests. But the protests are far from over. They are now coming up again. While nobody knows how things will turn out for Lebanon, the people don't seem to be giving up yet (Redacted, 2020).