According to an article published in the Lebanese newspaper L’Orient-Le-Jour a couple of days ago, the Lebanese Civil Defense may disappear within 4 years. Lack of funds is threatening its existence, claims its director.
The men of the Lebanese Civil Defense have been on alert since last June to cope with forest fires that destroyed 800 hectares since the month of May. Yet last week, more than 40 acres went up in smoke after eleven fires in North Lebanon, Mount Lebanon and in the South, according to a military statement. But does the civil defense have the necessary means to fight against this scourge? General Darwish Hobeika says that the institution sees its equipment deteriorating with 20 per cent of its vehicle being unusable and in the same time having growing difficulty to collect the 10,000 dollars a year for vehicles maintenance. No tires has been bought for a decade. General Hobeika talks also about a deficit of 120 ambulances and the most recent one in service is ten years old. the consequences are not only material. “My men are old,” said General Hobeika. Without the young volunteers, we could not do anything. The average age of professional firefighters is about 50 years, while the 4,000 volunteers’ average age is twenty years. The lack of funds affecting the institution will lead to a huge problem when the aging employees will get retired.
The only source of satisfaction comes from abroad, more specifically from France. This country, along with the United Nations has trained since 2007 many members of the Civil Defence to rescue techniques and earthquakes clearing. “Almost 200 of my men are now specialized in the rescue and intervention in forest fires; and themselves can conduct training in clubs, schools, universities or hospitals, welcomes M . Hobeika. During this program funded by the French government, the Civil Defense had also received donations of equipment for rescue and clearing for a value of nearly 300,000 dollars. But what the institution needs today is a long-term support, which by definition can only come from the Lebanese state. Otherwise, warned the General who is retiring next year, “at the rate things are going, there will be no Civil Defense in four years.”