RMF (Rene Moawad Foundation) Executive Director, MP Michel Moawad cautioned that any error during the plan to ease coronavirus lockdown will take us to a dangerous stage, mentioning that a huge catastrophe will appear after the end of the lockdown, when hundreds of thousands of Lebanese citizens will lose their jobs and more than 50% of the Lebanese will be under the poverty line.
In a press conference, MP Moawad launched two initiatives “Maan” and “Sawa” (Together) to limit the spread of Covid-19 and support the Lebanese community, he declared: “wrong are those who think that we are done with the coronavirus by ending the Lockdown. In fact, we are not done on the medical level for not finding the vaccine yet. We have ended the first phase of the lockdown and we are proud of the excellent& efficient measures that were taken.”
MP Moawad added: “Three essential factors contributed in the success of the first phase: first, the serious efforts deployed by the Ministry of Health; second, the commitment of the Lebanese people and third, the divine providence protecting Lebanon. Allow me to thank the government, the Health Minister, the medical teams in Lebanon, the Red Cross, and the MEA staff for their hard work during this phase.”
He said: “It is the end of the first phase while the government is gradually ending the lockdown, since no country can maintain the total lockdown until the invention of a vaccine for economic& social reasons.”
MP Moawad noted that we are going through a huge economic and social crisis and the confinement played a major role in freezing the situation. However, this crisis will get worse after the end of the lockdown, where a big number of institutions are closed and hundreds of thousands of employees will lose their jobs and more than 50% of the Lebanese will be under the poverty line. Moreover, the Lebanese emigrants, who are a main support for Lebanon, are also affected by the coronovirus crisis.
He confirmed that the situation is more difficult in Lebanon than in other country in the world, because the coronavirus crisis came with an economic crisis and the country’s bankruptcy, the matter that led to a monetary, financial, economic& social collapse. In fact, the Lebanese government does not have the capabilities to face the coronavirus repercussions.
MP Moawad stated: “Due to the difficulties of the health situation as well as the dangerous economic& social situation and the limited state capacities, we, as NGOs, private sector and citizens, should compensate the lack of capacities to present integrated solutions in coordination with the government and with each others, based on clear plans that guaranty their sustainability.”
He explained the details of the campaign “Maan” (Together) launched by Rene Moawad Foundation to support our community in fighting the Covid-19 on the medical& social levels. He mentioned that it is based on one bet and two bases: the bet is the cooperation spirit between the Lebanese people that will defeat all obstacles with the support of institutions that can associate people in need with the donating people. And the two bases are: first is the virus containment, through the contribution of Rene Moawad Foundation in the containment after the end of the lockdown. Second is the support of our community in all regions where RMF is present, from North Lebanon to Bekaa to the South.
Regarding the containment, MP Moawad confirmed that “It is obvious, with the recognition of different countries, WHO and the Ministry of Health, that it is impossible to end the lockdown safely, unless we increase the number of random PCR tests across the country. In fact, the Health Minister declared that more than 1500 tests are conducted daily and it will become 3000 tests soon. But even this number is less than the international requested criteria, especially after the end of the lockdown. In fact, we need to conduct about 10 thousands to 15 thousands PCR tests per day to protect our country and contain the virus.”
Therefore, MP Moawad declared that “Rene Moawad Foundation contributed through “Maan” initiative in providing PCR tests in North Lebanon, from Akkar to Batroun, Tripoli, Menyieh- Danniyeh, Zgharta Zawieh, Koura and Bcharre, i.e. 16.5% of the Lebanese people, and in regions where we have a logistic structure allowing us to conduct free tests.”
“Practically, we will first work in coordination with the Lebanese government. We are completing the government’s work not competing with it. We will start from the existing medical structure in hospitals equipped with PCR testing machines. Second, we will collaborate with initiatives from universal private institutions such as the University of Balamand equipped to conduct free tests in all regions, especially in North Lebanon; as well as the Lebanese American University (LAU) equipped with a mobile clinic to conduct tests in different regions. Our goal is to conduct 5000 free PCR tests per month for the Lebanese people in North Lebanon by offering test kits, swabs and extraction kits, as well as supporting the municipalities in order to conduct 5000 free tests. We will also make sure to conduct tests in regions where hospitals are not equipped to conduct theses tests by coordinating with municipalities, or by the Drive Thru or by taking samples from homes.” He said
MP Moawad stated that conducting 5000 free tests per month for 12 months will cost about two million dollars, i.e. about 70 to 80 thousand dollars per month. In fact, we could import the kits from China and Korea and we need money to pay for it. So, I am asking all the Lebanese around the world to help us. RMF will open its offices and will ask for the help of the Lebanese Diaspora and the international institutions to support this project since every 100$ donated will allow us to conduct tests for 8 persons.
MP Moawad thanked Mr. Karl Fakher for his generous contribution that allowed us to get the first 5000 test kits. He also thanked Mr. Ali Seblani, owner of Envision TEC in USA and offered 15 thousands swap through RMF; he thanked Habib Keirouz institution for cooperating with RMF to support the efforts deployed by the rescue committee in Bcharre and the medical team in St. Mama Hospital, the municipalities and the Federation of municipalities of Bcharre district and the region’s MPs to contain the virus.
MP Moawad confirmed that “RMF will also continue its project to contain the virus by supporting the front line workers like the Red Cross, the medical team at Rafic Hariri Hospital and other hospitals, by supporting the projects of our dispensaries and mobile clinics that visit 82 villages in North Lebanon and that presented 15 thousand medical services in 2019. Moreover, RMF will continue its online projects concerning guidelines for parents, psychological support for children, literacy and e-support that reached 23 thousand children, 34 thousand teenagers and 63 thousand women during the last two months.”
He emphasized that it is very important to contain poverty because more than 50% of the Lebanese people are now under the poverty line. This dangerous situation is not only related to coronavirus but it is due to the financial& monetary collapse. He stated “We are aware that the end of this economic crisis will not be within two or three months. We should know that this situation will last for years. The state cannot bear the burden alone, so RMF will invest its capacities in Lebanon and abroad, with the international institutions to give assistance to Lebanese people. Every Lebanese citizen has the right to live in dignity and that is not favor from anyone.
MP Moawad explained the RMF plan and said: “We will start working in regions where we are present and where we have a logistic structure that enhances our assistance such as in Akkar governorate, North Lebanon, Zahle, west Bekaa, Jezzine, Saida and Zahrani.” He noted that RMF, the international institutions and the government are facing a major problem which is the lack of transparency in the lists of families in need. Therefore, we decided to start working in regions where we have enough data about the families. We have also launched a social e-application to precise the families in need and their real needs.
He emphasized on the necessity of sustainability and that RMF will keep on assisting those families for at least one year. The assistance will begin with food rations as well as cleaning and sanitizing kits that will cost between 40 and 100 dollars, according to the need of every family and the number of its members. He declared: “The aim of this project is to reach about 6 thousand families in these regions, in addition to two thousand families we already help in Zgharta through “Sawa” initiative. The project, with the support of the Lebanese residents and emigrants and the international institutions will cost 5 million dollars per year.”
“We have prepared the financial and banking mechanism to facilitate money transfers from abroad, since many countries are limiting the transfers to Lebanon for reasons we all know. Therefore, we opened bank accounts in USA, UAE and soon in Australia, so emigrants can easily transfer money. We also signed a collaboration agreement with SGBL bank to facilitate the transfer of money from abroad and to withdraw it 100% in cash, to support this project. Moreover, we an international auditing company will supervise this initiative. For more information, the link www.rmftogether.com is available.” Moawad stated
MP Moawad announced that RMF is communicating with international institutions to develop a project on the agricultural level based on the coronavirus developments and said: “When the Lebanese people are nowadays returning to agriculture after years of neglecting it, RMF has always supported the agricultural sector because we believe that it is the pillar to develop the rural regions located away from the capital. Since 1995, RMF is cooperating with farmers by guiding them and supporting them. I proudly announce that during the last two months, we gave assistance to 1500 farmers all over the country. We are also executing an important project with the Netherlands for four years with a budget of 14 million dollars to guide the farmers to increase and ameliorate the productions of potatoes, avocados, cherries and grapes, in order to export the Lebanese production to the European Union countries. Moreover, in the coming weeks we will export about 40 containers of the Lebanese potatoes to the European Union countries.”
MP Moawad declared that RMF has launched in Zgharta Zawieh the initiative “Sawa” and created a fund after receiving calls from Lebanese residents and emigrants willing to help through institutions in which they trust without any political considerations. He added: “from the beginning, people in Zgharta gave a great example of the real cooperation, where we put our differences aside, fought the virus and succeeded in containing it.”
“Allow me to thank everyone, MPs of Zgharta Zawieh who contributed in this great cooperation, the real heroes the emergency committee chaired by the district commissioner of Zgharta, the medical committee, the social committee, the residential quarters committees, the security forces, the municipalities, the mayors and the mayor of Zgharta-Ehden municipality who did a great job, the hospitals and the civil community committees, the emigrants from Zgharta and every person in Zgharta for giving a great example in commitment and cooperation.” He declared
MP Moawad ensured “Together, we will continue the fight against coronavirus after lifting the lockdown by conducting free PCR tests in collaboration with the municipalities and the federation of municipalities. We will also fight for protecting people from hunger and poverty by providing food and medications. So, we need about two million dollars per year to give assistance to 300 families.”
“Allow me to thank our partners in “Sawa” initiative who are contributing in implementing it on the field, Gesture from the Heart association, Jouzour association, Donald Roy Abed association, Toufic Mouawad association and Srouj Company in Amman (Mr. Simon Karam), as well as other partners. I also thank all the members in the council of this initiative, the members of the medical committee and the related social committee.
I also want to thank every person who donated and contributed in the fund. “Sawa” fund has collected till now the amount of 300 million LBP. I sincerely thank a permanent donor from Abu Dhabi who requested not t o reveal his name.
In the few coming days, we will start by distributing more than 2500 food rations and 750 sanitizing kits donated by Arche Nova, in Zgharta and the district villages. The distribution will be executed according to lists resulting from an Online Questionnaire launched by RMF in different villages and that will reach 20 thousand houses in Zgharta Zawieh, in order to create a précised overview of the social situation of families in our district.
We have started together and will continue together. I appeal emigrants from Zgharta living in America, Australia, Europe, Africa and the Arab countries and say: “I am aware that you are also going through a difficult situation due to coronavirus crisis, but people in our community need your help so they can stay in Lebanon and live with dignity. Today, once again, we are asking you to sacrifice, to cooperate together for every person in Zgharta-Zawieh.”
At the end, MP Moawad addressed the Lebanese people and said: “Dear Lebanese, we are all aware of the critical situation that will become harsher and that the crisis will take long. It is not a matter of weeks or months, this crisis will last years on many level. Months ago, I was blamed for warning people and sawing this happening. We are living hard times; we failed in building a real state and in maintaining our institutions. Today, our responsibility is to maintain the sustainability of our community by cooperating and collaborating all together. In fact, this cooperation cannot succeed without trust and transparency. Rene Moawad Foundation is very proud for having established this institution with limited capacities and grew across years and could reach all the country, aside political& sectarian considerations, to keep the Lebanese rooted in his land. We have established a foundation that could help more 350 thousand persons in 2019, because our professional team and our transparency are the main reason for having the trust of the Lebanese residents and emigrants and the international donor institutions. Today, we are facing a new challenge, a new act of faith in Lebanon and we will win. We will announce our victory and we will prove once again that we are a transparent institution that can connect people in need with persons willing to help, because our aim is to keep Lebanese people rooted in their land and to protect them from hunger and poverty.”