Lilian Chaito's suffering continues... Medicine is not available in Lebanon and the seizure of her money hinders her from treatment (video)

Lilian Chaito’s suffering continues… Medicine is not available in Lebanon and the seizure of her money hinders her from treatment (video)

On the eve of the anniversary of the second Beirut port explosion, Reuters has shed light through the report below on the victim, Lilian Chaito, who was seriously injured in the Beirut Port explosion, and her suffering in hospital, in light of the exceptional health condition she suffers from.

Lilian Chaito was breathing hard until a nurse reached her hospital bed, as the 28-year-old had spent almost the whole of the past two years in silent agony after the Beirut port explosion in 2020.

Using a suction machine, the nurse emptied her lungs of the accumulated phlegm and finally Shaito’s chest calmed down.

But the quiet halls of the American University of Beirut Medical Center – where she has lived since the August 4, 2020 explosion – did not make her immune from the collapse afflicting Lebanon.

Lillian and her family are trapped in the midst of their country’s multiple crises – from a deteriorating health sector that can no longer treat it, to paralyzed government institutions and banks that have prevented them from accessing their savings.

“Lilian represents the suffering of the Lebanese people because she suffers from all this,” her older sister Nesma told Reuters.

Lillian had severe damage to her frontal lobes that left her in a coma that lasted for months and required three surgeries.

In July, she uttered her first word in nearly two years – “mama” – which her siblings understood was a cry for her young child Ali, whom she had not seen since the explosion due to a custody dispute with her husband.

Lillian is still almost paralyzed, communicating by closing her eyes to confirm something or turning her bandaged head away to say no.

At her best, she can wave a shivering left hand, which is hooked up to medicated solutions that supply her with about six types of medication.

This includes painkillers and treatment for epilepsy that her sisters say is not available in Lebanon, where a three-year financial meltdown has hampered the import of many medicines.

Her sisters ask friends and acquaintances from abroad to bring medicines, and pay for them in hard-to-reach US dollars as the value of the Lebanese currency continues to decline.

Lillian lives in a stuffy room on the ninth floor, with a small fan unable to dissipate the summer’s moisture. Like many homes and offices across Lebanon struggling to deal with cuts to government electricity grid capacity and skyrocketing fuel prices, the hospital is rationing private diesel supplies by limiting central air conditioning hours.

But it won’t stay there much longer.

The American University of Beirut Medical Center told the family in February that the charitable organization that covers the costs of her stay could no longer afford it, and that she would have to move to a specialized rehabilitation center to continue her treatment.

“These private centers ask for money, and unfortunately we cannot afford that – not even part of it – because our money is in the banks,” Nesma said.

Their older sister, Nawal, has about $20,000 saved in an American currency account at Bank Audi and wants to use it for Lillian’s treatment.

But since the financial crisis erupted in 2019, many Lebanese banks have prevented clients from withdrawing their hard currency savings through informal capital controls.

Banks impose a cap on monthly cash withdrawals in US dollars and allow the withdrawal of other limited amounts in Lebanese pounds at a much lower rate than the parallel market rate.

Banks say the restrictions prevent the flow of customers to withdraw deposits, but some people say they do not apply to the rich and powerful.

Successive governments have allowed the financial meltdown to fester, even as it has plunged the majority of the population into poverty.

The interests of the ruling sects, which managed to maintain their grip on power in the May elections, are widely blamed for blocking solutions.

Lillian’s family and her lawyer claim the restrictions are hampering her recovery because withdrawing the money at the low bank rate will reduce its value.

This will ultimately represent an unofficial reduction in value of more than 80 percent, said Fouad Debs, co-founder of the Association of Lebanese Depositors.

“Nawal saved the money and now she needs the money to spend on Lillian, but the bank … does not allow her to withdraw the money,” he told Reuters.

In response to questions by email from Reuters, a Bank Audi spokesman said the restrictions were imposed by the Lebanese crisis, not by Bank Audi.

The spokesperson stated that the bank was generally keen to provide exceptional support including paying for medical care, and said it had never refrained from providing any possible support to Lillian, but did not say whether it had specifically allowed the family exceptional withdrawals to pay for their care.

The Association of Depositors has filed more than 350 lawsuits against Lebanese banks over the past three years, mostly for clients seeking unrestricted access to their savings in order to pay education or health care fees.

Some clients have won cases, but many have yet to receive a ruling.

In another example of how the Lebanese meltdown affected Lillian, an open-ended strike in the courts left the association unable to file a complaint against Bank Audi over the past month.

“It’s a reflection of the collapse of the whole system,” Debs said.

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