Activists Saturday demanded that Health Minister Wael Abu Faour declare a state of public health emergency over the persistent trash crisis that has etched away at the livelihoods of citizens since last July.

"Our health is not a game," a statement issued by the We Want Accountability movement said.

Around 15 protesters affiliated with the group rallied outside the ministry's new headquarters in the Beirut suburb of Bir Hasan to demand health measures that ensure the safety of people, as mounds of trash remained scattered around the capital and Mount Lebanon.

The statement called for the formation of a central emergency committee comprised of the ministries of health, interior, environment, agriculture and labor, in addition to the drafting of a contingency plan to fend off the effects of the amassing waste.

Protesters also asked the Health Ministry to alert citizens and provide a health guide to properly address the risks, as well as the required supplies to prevent odors and air pollution.

The statement urged municipalities to expose the groups and individuals responsible for burning the waste and refer them to the general prosecution over charges of intentional abuse, causing death, and public safety threats.

They also asked for a thorough follow up on the dumping of hospital and factory trash.

The movement demanded periodic tests for water contamination and the treatment of people sickened by the trash crisis at the expense of the Health Ministry.

"The establishment of health support teams is imperative... as the Education Ministry and municipalities should cooperate to remove waste accumulating near schools and day cares."

The small rally was accompanied by heavy security deployment near the premises of the ministry.

"We are not seeking to escalate," a female protester told MTV channel, underscoring that "it's a peaceful protest to deliver a message" to the minister.

Director General of Health at the Health Ministry Walid Ammar later approached the protesters to talk to them.

He was handed a list of their demands and was asked to convey them to Abu Faour.

Lebanon has been suffering from a massive waste crisis since mid-July when the country's largest landfill shut down.

The government had no plan of action following its closure, resulting in massive piles of garbage accumulating on the streets of Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

The Cabinet last month voted to export the country's trash. However, the plan has yet to be implemented.

Source & Link: The Daily Star