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Humanitarian Aid Scrambles to Help After Beirut Explosion

In the aftermath of the devastating explosion in Beirut, Lebanese officials are pleading for international aid to help the city recover.

This explosion, which killed at least 135 people and injured another 5,000, has left citizens without homes, food, or vital medical care. In an interview on Thursday, Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud wept and implored the foreign community for donations and government assistance.

Fragile Foundations

Prior to the explosion, Lebanon was rife with political conflict and suffered economic strain from a crippling financial crisis. The disaster exacerbated existing tensions. Protests in Beirut became so ferocious, the Lebanese government was forced to resign. The city’s medical institutions were already struggling to keep up with the demands of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, with victims from the blast suddenly flooding in, the hospitals are overwhelmed. Corrupt government institutions, poor leadership, and faulty health systems have left families stranded.

The blast stripped away homes, loved ones, and access to food and medical facilities. Crowds gathered on the streets, armed with brooms, garbage bins, and tools, tasked with clearing out the tons of shrapnel, glass, and debris. Organizations came together to address the needs of the explosion’s victims.

The Cavalry Arrives

One of the first groups to show up was the Lebanese Red Cross, helping the wounded and joining search-and-rescue operations. The Red Cross is the primary source of ambulance services in Lebanon. The organization vowed to dispatch every ambulance from North Lebanon, Bekaa, and South Lebanon to Beirut, to provide aid. The nonprofit has an urgent need for blood, which is being collected from residents of Beirut.

To cope with the deluge of patients, the organization Save the Children has provided medical relief teams. Humanity and Inclusion also has 100 workers in Lebanon, including psychologists, social workers, and physical therapists. This nongovernmental organization focuses on post-surgical therapy, including physical therapy and counseling, to help Beirut residents adjust to life after the explosion.

Humanity and Inclusion, which received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its work to prohibit landmines, has performed humanitarian work in Lebanon since 1992. Lately, the organization has been tasking with aiding Syrian refugees, particularly the elderly, the disabled, and people with severe illnesses.

Lebanon possesses the biggest number of Syrian refugees per capita on Earth, with refugees currently accounting for roughly 30% of the country’s population. (This estimate comes from the organization Mercy Corps, which is also accepting donations.)

The health care group Project HOPE has been transporting protective gear and medical supplies to the city, and assisting the authorities on the ground.

The International Medical Corps are sending out medical units, and offering mental health care to those impacted by the traumatic events of late. The Medical Corps organization also grants health services to particularly vulnerable groups in Lebanon, including the aforementioned Syrian refugees.

Children in Crisis

UNICEF, the United Nations agency focused on giving aid to children, has its Lebanese arm working on the ground, alongside other front-line workers. They offer medical and vaccine supplies to Beirut, and supply drinking water to rescue workers at the port.

UNICEF’s ground team counsels children, who are coping with the emotional fallout from the blast. They have mobilized the city’s youth to clean up neighborhoods ravaged by the incident; participants, including some of the organization’s own staff members, have lost loved ones in the explosion.

This July, Save the Children released a study claiming that more than 900,000 Lebanese people, including over 550,000 children, lacked the funds to purchase basic goods, such as food. The explosion has worsened the issue of food access, both in Beirut, and in the rest of Lebanon.

Hunger and Homelessness

Lebanon imports almost 85 percent of its food, and the port city of Beirut played a vital role in that supply chain. Now that the port is seriously damaged by the blast, food prices are likely to skyrocket across the country, leaving citizens hungry.

Multiple programs are banding together and collecting donations to provide food:

  • The Lebanese Food Bank, much like the Red Cross, was one of the first organizations on the scene after the explosion.
  • The United Nations’ World Food Program also provides food to those displaced or made homeless by the crisis.
  • Save the Children has launched a children’s relief fund for Lebanon.
  • The Islamic Relief program, which specializes in emergency responses and food aid, is constructing a supply chain for emergency aid in Beirut.

According to local media reports, Beirut’s governor has stated that as many as 300,000 people could be left homeless by the catastrophe. The governor speculates that it could cost the country between $3 billion and $5 billion to rebuild the city, adding that engineers need to conduct an assessment for an official number.

Baytna Baytak, a charity that sheltered health care employees during the coronavirus pandemic, is currently gathering funds to provide free living spaces to the thousands who have been displaced.

Baytna Baytak is supported by Impact Lebanon, a project that established a crowdfunding campaign. The campaign aims to assist organizations on the ground, including several of the nonprofits referenced in this article. The project has raised millions so far, and donated the first $100,000 to the Lebanese Red Cross.

Impact Lebanon is also working to share data about the individuals who remain missing, following the explosion.  Several social media accounts have also been established, to assist in finding victims.

The Aftermath

As of now, Lebanon is reeling from a string of disasters. The nation simmers with fear and economic frustration, due to the financial crisis. It’s shaken by the power vacuum following the government’s resignation. Its medical facilities are drowning in patients, from the blast, and from the pandemic. There’s a deficit in homes, food, and services, particularly for children and refugees.

Fortunately, countries around the world have promised support. With France, Germany, Canada, Bangladesh, Israel, Russia, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, and Iran sending rescue teams, humanitarian aid, supplies, and other resources, Lebanon has not been left to struggle on its own.

This article was written by Avanti I of Boston, Massachusetts.

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