5 Aug 2020

Beirut explosion: an update from our Partner in Lebanon

Assad Serhal (centre) is recovering well after eight stitches © SPNL
Assad Serhal (centre) is recovering well after eight stitches © SPNL
By Shaun Hurrell

A massive explosion ripped through Beirut, Lebanon's capital, last night, killing over 100 people. The cause is still being determined but its impact has been horrific - and BirdLife in Lebanon, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL), has not been immune. Patricia Zurita, BirdLife's CEO, has posted the following message of solidarity:

To our friends and colleagues in Lebanon who are already working for nature and people during difficult times, our thoughts are with you today after the awful events in Beirut, in which at least 4,000 families suffered. Director General of SPNL (BirdLife in Lebanon), and BirdLife Council member, Assad Serhal, was sadly injured in the explosion (but is recovering after 8 stitches), and we are deeply saddened to hear the news of a close conservation colleague losing a loved one. SPNL's offices thankfully were undamaged and the BirdLife spirit is already at work with SPNL staff helping neighbours and members of the community. The entire BirdLife family sends our condolences, solidarity and strength. We are with you. 

Assad Serhal, who was awarded the prestigious MIDORI prize for Biodiversity in 2018 for his outstanding contirbution to conservation (and was interviewed here), has been able to send us a message:

The explosion seen yesterday in Beirut is a tragedy that we are slowly assimilating.  We are saddened by the impact this has had on the SPNL family but strengthened by our spirit of collaboration and willingness to help. While I was directly impacted, my injury doesn't compare to the pain some are feeling at this moment, and I am grateful to the messages of love and solidarity I have received from the BirdLife family far and wide. This helps us to keep going and shows the BirdLife family spirit.

SPNL is one of the oldest environmental NGOs in Lebanon. Ever since its establishment in 1986, SPNL has advocated the establishment of protected areas and, working with the Ministry of Environment, they initiated the formation of Lebanon's protected areas. After twenty years of experience working with nature reserves through government agencies, SPNL is now reviving and advocating Hima - a community based conservation approach that has been prevalent in the Arabic region for more than 1500 years. They are also prominent in their work against the illegal killing of migratory birds.

Amongst messages of grief and condolences, SPNL said on their facebook page:

This will only get us stronger for serving our Hima, nature, and people.