By Vatican News
The international pontifical foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on Wednesday announced three emergency aid projects aimed at supporting the most vulnerable families and refugees in the northern Lebanese region of the Bekaa Valley.
A trusted Covid testing facility
“The people in Zahleh and the Bekaa Valley are living in a situation of chaos and fear,” says Archbishop Issam John Darwish, of the Greek Melkite Archeparchy of Zahle and Forzol. “In the last two weeks the number of patients has increased dramatically in every region, especially in Zaleh and the Bekaa Valley, and our health system is on the point of reaching its maximum capacity” due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Archbishop explained.
One of the projects sponsored by ACN will support a new Covid-19 test centre in the Tel Chiha hospital in Zaleh, which was established by the Archeparchy to support the people of the Bekaa Valley. The only state-run hospital in the area that had been doing Covid testing became the centre of scandal when it was discovered that the doctor in charge of the test laboratory did not have legitimate credentials.
“We hold people’s lives in our hands”, Archbishop Darwish continues. “We have to offer them a laboratory they can have faith in. At present, people in the region aren’t even sure if most of the results are correct, and so there is an urgent need to go back and test them, so that we can track the virus more closely.”
Providing basic necessities
The two other ACN projects are aimed at providing basic necessities for the most vulnerable families. Archbishop Darwish has requested ACN to provide food parcels for approximately 2,000 needy families in Zaleh and the surrounding area. ACN will also be assisting 100 families in the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Baalbek-Deir El Ahmar in the north of the Bekaa Valley.
“Thanks to this aid,” says a press release from ACN released on Thursday, “the families, who are living below the poverty threshold, will at least have some security for the next three months.”
The director of projects for the Eparchy of Ballbek has spoken on the importance of supporting these projects.
“Our financial aid is of the greatest importance, and it has arrived just when it was most needed. It will have a real impact and will help a great number of needy people. We have no words to express our gratitude. It is the wonderful gestures of others like these that keeps us going most days. This is a tremendous help to us at a very difficult moment, a ray of sunshine that brings us some hope.”
Church’s pastoral outreach
With much of the world focused on Beirut after the devastating 4 August explosion, ACN sheds light on the desperate needs of people in other parts of the country. “As we all know, Lebanon is going through immense suffering, especially in Beirut, following the disastrous explosion in the city,” says Regina Lynch, Head of the ACN’s project department. “But at the same time, we can’t forget the coronavirus crisis, which is still growing in the region.” She emphasizes, “An important aspect of the pastoral outreach of the Church in the present emergency situation in the country includes attending to the basic needs of the people, such as the food parcels and basic medical care.”
Archbishop Darwish makes the Church’s commitment clear: “Today all our people are struggling to obtain their daily bread. We will continue to do everything in our power to stand by them during these difficult times.”