In Lebanon, a search for medicine and a stranger's help

Nada Waked, a Lebanese woman who helped provide a small amount of medications for free, gestures as she speaks at her house, in Sabtiyeh neighborhood, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, June 7, 2021. In late May, Lebanon's central bank said that it cannot continue with its subsidies of medical items without dipping into the mandatory reserves, and asked authorities to find a solution. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Nada Waked, a Lebanese woman who helped provide a small amount of medications for free, gestures as she speaks at her house, in Sabtiyeh neighborhood, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, June 7, 2021. In late May, Lebanon's central bank said that it cannot continue with its subsidies of medical items without dipping into the mandatory reserves, and asked authorities to find a solution. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla) (Copyright 2021The Associated Press. All right reserved)

To all the struggles of life in Lebanon — the pandemic, the power outages, the inflation, the punishing financial and political crises — add one more: shortages of crucial medications.

But as residents struggle to find the medicines they need, some are finding that their fellow Lebanese are doing what they can to help.

Christiane Massoud, a 41-year-old nurse, scoured pharmacies for an elusive drug to manage her Crohn's disease, had friends around the country search on her behalf and asked her doctor if there was a substitute. She also appealed to strangers online for pointers to track it down.

Nada Waked responded to one of those online pleas: She had a small amount that her mom no longer needed. Massoud offered to pay; Waked and her mom declined the money. Instead, Waked asked for a prayer.

In this bleak landscape, Massoud found in Waked’s gesture a bright spot.

“It showed that we are a people who stand by one another and feel for one another,” she said. “There are still people who help each other out.”

As the country's crises deepened, pharmacist Chadi Geha said he noticed more were eager to help strangers. Some of his customers started refusing to take back change, asking him instead to use the cash to pay for the medications of others in need.

“That didn’t happen before,” he said. “You feel like there’s still good in the world. ... They don’t even want to know who they’re helping; they just care about helping.”