Photo courtesy of Jason Seagle

The first aid team (Beirut branch) of MCC’s partner, Popular Aid for Relief and Development, work on pretend victim Samer Yassin as part of their disaster preparation exercises.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has a long tradition of responding in communities faced with disasters. Many times, these disasters are unexpected and unavoidable. In some cases, however, communities are able to recognize emergencies before they happen.

 In May and June, Lebanon saw a sharp rise in violence. Both internal political factors and external conflict in neighboring countries are fueling the increased tension in Lebanon. Many Lebanese fear minor skirmishes may soon evolve into large-scale violence.

 “Lebanon is a country which is open to potential disasters,” says Rita Hamdan, director of the Popular Aid for Relief and Development (PARD), an organization working with Palestinians in Lebanon. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) partners with PARD.

 “The situation in Lebanon is unstable,” Hamdan said. “Every three to four years we have big wars affecting thousands of people. We have internal conflict. The situation in Syria might soon be reflected in Lebanon.”

 In an attempt to lessen the impact of future violent conflicts, MCC’s partners are working actively during times of relative calm to prepare nongovernmental organizations, local government officials and other community actors for a rapid response when disaster strikes.

 MCC has worked with 56 nongovernmental organizations in southern Lebanon to prepare a Contingency Plan outlining the role and response of each NGO in the face of an emergency, thus ensuring a more coordinated response in which efforts are less likely to be duplicated.

 “It’s about not only the work of one nongovernmental organization, but how to gather leaders from all those in the community and have them come up with a plan where everybody knows their part and their resources and their role when a disaster actually happens,” said Mona Hassouna, a project officer with MCC partner Development for People and Nature Association (DPNA).

 In collaboration with PARD and DPNA, MCC has supported a series of trainings outlining the international standards for emergency response – food, shelter, medical care, and other aspects – to be used in communities following a disaster.

Further training is being provided on how to undertake a Rapid Needs Assessment at the onset of a disaster.

Together, MCC and partner Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue trained social workers and counselors to provide trauma healing to those suffering the emotional stress of conflict.

In the case of Lebanon, where most of the conflicts are made by humans and not a result of nature, MCC works beyond the disaster preparedness component to get to the root of the issues causing the violence. Through long-term work at inter-faith dialogue and conflict prevention, MCC seeks to address the core issues that fuel today’s emergencies.