The explosion in Beirut sent shockwaves throughout the world when news first broke out last week and the videos circulating online revealed the extent of damage following the massive blast radius – buildings and streets were decimated and the death toll stands at more than 200 people today, according to the BBC. Officials estimate up to $15 billion in economic losses for Lebanon, and in a country that is already struggling economically, this is a severe blow dealt to a government and financial system that are unable to recover quickly to tend to affected citizens’ needs.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has also been gathering much needed donations and supplies but the demand for help greatly exceeds the provisions they have. In this time of crisis, Beirut is being left in increasingly dire straits as the Lebanese government announced its resignation today, leaving the country without leadership. Moreover, while there have been posts online attempting to direct donations to appropriate charities and organizations in Lebanon, information on this has been largely unclear.
Further concerns on corruption within the ranks of the government have also crippled the aid process, and the BBC points out that while international donors have pledged $297 million in relief aid to those affected by the blast, disbursement of the funds in their intended channels are “dependent on Lebanese authorities fully committing to ‘timely measures and reforms expected by the Lebanese people’”.
This is where cryptocurrency comes in. Crypto has proven to be a popular medium of transaction for donations and funds transfers in times of social upheaval and emergencies such as the Beirut explosion. A group of Lebanese expatriates have created a Crypto Disaster Relief Fund that accepts eight different cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash and others. Separately, a professor living in Lebanon is also helping out in his own way by auctioning 6 copies of The Bitcoin Standard to raise funds for the Lebanese Red Cross and Beit El Baraka.
The donated crypto will have to be converted into fiat currency, the Lebanese Lira or other major currencies, to be given directly to and used by the organizations listed in both initiatives.
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin were seen in the Hong Kong protests and also the recent civil unrest with the BlackLivesMatter movement in the US. In the face of a humanitarian crisis, cryptocurrency plays an imperative role by being a more easy, secure and reliable way of obtaining and managing funds. The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) also accepts Bitcoin, Ethereum and even privacy coins ZCash and Monero for donations, providing safeguards for donors to stay anonymous.