US envoy David Hale meets Lebanese parliament speaker

  • Friday 14, August 2020 05:11 PM
Sharjah24 – AFP: Arriving in Lebanon after last week's deadly Beirut blast, US envoy David Hale bypassed politicians to head straight to a hard-hit neighbourhood where young volunteers are helping people abandoned by their state.
At the volunteer hub dubbed the "Base Camp", there is a "focus on getting things done," Hale told a press conference after his tour.

He contrasted the hive of activity to the "dysfunctional governance and empty promises" of Lebanon's political leaders, who face public outrage over the explosion of a vast stock of ammonium nitrate stored for years at Beirut's port.

Volunteer efforts "could not only be tapped to rebuild Beirut but (also) to undertake necessary reforms that will bring the kind of transformation that is necessary for Lebanon," Hale said.

In the wake of the August 4 explosion of a the huge chemical store that laid waste to whole Beirut neighbourhoods, students and young professionals have ditched classes and day jobs to save lives, provide emergency support and start to rebuild.

Hale's visit to the volunteer hub in the blast-hit Gemmayzeh district came days after French President Emmanuel Macron took a tour of the same street last Thursday, as well as meeting Lebanese leaders.

But while Macron was welcomed as a saviour, it was clear that the heroes of the moment were the volunteers.

"I don't know why (Hale) would do that second step and go to meet politicians," said Wassim Bou Malham, 33, who leads a database management team at the Base Camp.

"The aid is happening here, the data collection is happening here, the cleaning is happening here, the reconstruction is happening here," he said.