The massive explosion adds to the enormous problems facing Lebanon’s people including food insecurity - now made worse by the destruction of its main port, which will disrupt food imports - the impact of Covid-19 amid an underlying economic crisis and mass unemployment, a refugee crisis and civil unrest over corruption.
Fadi Hallisso, director of Christian Aid’s partner organisation Basmeh & Zeitooneh [the smile and the olive], said:
“I live 12km away from the port where the explosion happened, but nevertheless my whole building shook and we did not understand what had happened. Now we have formed a group of volunteers and we are going to the site of the explosion. From what we are hearing and seeing, the devastation is huge, many people’s shelter is unusable right now. We are preparing to set up a field kitchen to cook hot meals.
“People immediately need food, shelter, clothes, medical care. In the long term everyone is now worried about supplies because all the stock of wheat and medication in the port has been destroyed. In the first week or two we will need a huge effort to help people settle down.
“The last few days I have been having so many mixed emotions, some anger and frustration over the evil of negligence and corruption that permitted such a catastrophe to happen; but at the same time I had a great feeling that the solidarity of people can overcome this; the solidarity of youth on the streets, but also the solidarity we are seeing from abroad, people from all over the world calling to check on us as to how they can help make things easier. We have had donations from 700 people from all over the world. People are calling and asking how they can help. This really makes you feel the balancing power of love and solidarity that will help us overcome all of this.”
In response to the tragic explosion, Christian Aid has today launched the Lebanon Crisis Appeal to provide much-needed to support to the most vulnerable. Our local partners Basmeh & Zeitooneh and Mouvement Social are responding in the most affected areas. Together, Christian Aid and its partners are:
- Distributing food, water, hygiene and disinfection materials as well as clothes, mattresses, and blankets.
- Helping affected households to access medicine and health services.
- Mobilising volunteers to remove rubble in the places most damaged by the explosion.
- Referring families to temporary shelters and providing minor repairs for homes including carpentry and electrical fixes.
“Lebanon's situation is beyond catastrophic. The Lebanese people are in shock. Too much loss is affecting everyone residing in Lebanon today.
“The explosions sent an enormous blast wave across the city that flattened nearby buildings to the floor, shattered windows, knocked down doors, and shook buildings. The Lebanese people have woken to a new sense of vulnerability. The shock wave raced through the densely populated residential areas affecting more than 750,000 individuals residing within the radius of more than 9km away from the blast site, leaving families out on the streets with no food, shelter, and even emergency medical care.
“Our field teams are currently distributed in Karantina, Borj Hammoud, Dawra, and Ashrafieh to identify and assess the urgent needs of the residents, mainly providing essential assistance including food, water, shelter, and medical aid.
“Besides the catastrophe caused by the blast, the Covid-19 pandemic is still affecting Lebanon hard with more than 5,000 recorded cases and numbers increasing by the day, in addition to the economic crisis.”
Fadi Hallisso is available for interviews.
For further information please visit the Lebanon Crisis Appeal page.
Notes to editors:
- Since October 2019, nationwide mass anti-government civil protests have been widespread calling for end to decades of corruption, and political reform. This was followed by economic collapse, growing inflation. The impact of the Covid-19 has only compounded this –for refugees, and for Lebanese with a growing number of Lebanese increasingly vulnerable and destitute.
- The majority of those employed in Lebanon are in the informal sector (as many as 75% per cent of Lebanese and higher for Syrian refugees) and without any social protection, alongside the worsening economic crisis. Food insecurity has been on the rise since April 2019.
- 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.
- Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world, an estimated 1.5m Syrian refugees since the start of Syrian conflict in 2011, in addition to hosting 450k registered Palestine refugees. National infrastructure and economy has been under significant strain for years.