Ankara reached out to Beirut again with a new batch of humanitarian aid for Lebanon, which has been struggling with an economic crisis. Turkish and Lebanese officials came together at a medical warehouse at Lebanon University as the equipment and medicine were handed over to Lebanese authorities in a ceremony.
The ceremony was attended by Lebanese Health Minister Firass Abiad, Turkish Ambassador in Beirut Ali Barış Ulusoy and Orhan Aydın, Lebanon coordinator of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), the agency that supervised the aid delivery.
Expressing his country’s gratitude to the people of Turkey and the government, Abiad reiterated that it was not the first aid Turkey has provided Lebanon. The minister also noted that a hospital built by Turkey in Sidon (Saida), which cost more than $20 million, will be partially opened in September.
Ulusoy said at the ceremony that Tuesday’s delivery was “a concrete step of Turkey’s stand with the people of Lebanon.” He added that aid delivery accelerated after Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s visit to Ankara in February.
Since late 2019, Lebanon has been grappling with a severe economic crisis, including a massive currency depreciation as well as fuel and medical shortages. Lebanon’s currency has lost more than 90% of its value since 2019, while medication prices have risen fourfold, according to an Amnesty International report from December 2021.
In September, the United Nations warned that health care was out of reach for 33% of households in Lebanon. More than half of them were unable to obtain medicine either because it was too expensive or no longer stocked at pharmacies. Weeks later, Lebanon’s cash-strapped government lifted subsidies on most medicines – including those to treat chronic illnesses including cancer – pushing prices up even further. Tripoli, in particular, has been hard hit by the financial maelstrom. The port city was ranked the poorest in the Mediterranean by the United Nations even before the crisis began.
Lebanon’s Health Ministry was aware of cancer patients using herbal remedies because their treatments were no longer accessible, caretaker Health Minister Firas al-Abiad said, warning of the dangers. “This is worrisome. This is not a substitution, and many people do not understand this,” he told Reuters in June.
In April, Turkey sent 58 truckloads of humanitarian aid via a ship to Lebanon, mainly foodstuffs, after nearly 600 tons of aid in March. In 2015, Ankara included Beirut in the Turkish Foreign Military Assistance Program.
Turkey has long supported humanitarian efforts for Lebanon. Following the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel, it transferred $20 million worth of humanitarian aid through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to the country. Ankara has also played a key role in building new schools. The Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) has established 37 prefabricated schools, while Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) has undertaken the construction of another 20 schools. The TIKA has been active in Lebanon since opening an office there in 2014 and has run several projects on education and health, as well as restoration work for historical sites.
Turkey was one of the first countries to come to Lebanon’s aid after the 2006 war. During the Stockholm donors’ conference of 2006 after the war and the Paris III donor conference held in 2007, Turkey pledged aid of $30 million to the country.
Turkey and Lebanon, whose ties go back to Ottoman times, strengthened their relations after the end of the Lebanese civil war, particularly after the visit of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to Turkey in 2004. During the Lebanon-Israel war, Turkey worked toward establishing a cease-fire. Turkey also contributed to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), a peacekeeping and monitoring mission.