Press release

Beirut blast threatens to disrupt food imports to Lebanon, in midst of rising hunger and economic crisis

Following the massive explosion in Beirut’s port yesterday which has killed at least 100 people and injured some 4,000, Christian Aid - which works in Lebanon alongside partners - has expressed its horror at the scale of human suffering caused by the blast, and echoed the widespread concern that it could further destabilise a country that was already facing an economic and political crisis.

Máiréad Collins, Christian Aid’s Senior Advocacy Advisor on Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, said:

“The horrific and shocking explosion in Beirut comes amid what was already a perfect storm in Lebanon of displacement, pandemic, civil unrest, government corruption and economic crisis.

“This morning our partners are waking up to devastation in Lebanon’s capital city. There are scarcely any homes that are not damaged, with many destroyed; businesses and livelihoods were wiped out in seconds.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has already exposed the Lebanese workforce to a steep drop in living standards.  As many as 75 per cent of Lebanese workers are in the informal sector, and the proportion is higher for Syrian refugees. These people have no social protection to help them weather the economic crisis. Already in April of this year, our partner Basmeh & Zeitooneh [Smile and Olive] reported that they had spoken to families who at that early stage were already reporting having no food, not even bread in their homes.

“Now, the food crisis will deepen further. The grain stores in the port are completely destroyed. The port is the entry way for Lebanon’s grain imports; they import 90 per cent of their grain for the staple Lebanese bread.

“This explosion has made a very dire situation worse – with a growing number of Lebanese vulnerable to destitution - and could not have come at a worse time for the besieged country.”

Fadi Hallisso, director of Basmeh & Zeitooneh, who is on the ground in Beirut, and Máiréad Collins, who regularly visits Lebanon, are available for broadcast interviews.
Notes to editors:
  • Lebanon, currently home to more than 1 million Syrian refugees, has not ratified the refugee convention and Syrian refugees are not recognised as such by the Lebanese government. There are no official refugee camps and Syrian refugees are only allowed very restricted access to education, health and employment.
  • In October 2019, popular protests broke out across Lebanon as the citizenry took to the streets to call for an end to the decades of corruption that has blighted the country. As the protests gained momentum, there followed a banking crisis, which threatened to collapse the country’s economy. In late 2019, there was a creeping inflation, with the previously stabilised dollar exchange rate of 1500 Lebanese Pounds to 1USD changing. This led to banks no longer allowing customers to withdraw their USD and the price of basic household goods in some weeks tripling in price.
  • In 2020 the economic crisis has deepened. The IMF projects a GDP shrinkage of 12%, the worst in 30 years. Poverty amongst the Lebanese is expected to rise to 52% and up to 83% amongst Syrian refugees.