After the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4, Action Against Hunger warns of that the severe impacts of this disaster will only add to those caused by COVID-19 and the country’s ongoing economic crisis. Poverty in Lebanon is growing and prices for basic goods have increased, exacerbating the needs of the population, including large numbers of refugees.
Increased transmission of COVID-19 strains the health system and social tensions are growing in many parts of Lebanon. The risk of community transmission is very high: on August 5, the country reported its highest number of cases in a single day.
“The country's hospitals warn that they are overwhelmed by the COVID-19 outbreak as they struggle with funding problems, power outages, and a serious lack of personal protective equipment,” says Chiara Saccardi, Middle East Regional Head of Action Against Hunger.
In the wake of the explosion and in response to ongoing emergencies, our immediate priority is to support the health response. According to initial assessments, the most urgent needs include additional medical personnel, mobile medical units, and medications for acute and chronic conditions, as well as personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.
Three hospitals in the Achrafieh neighborhood have suffered serious damage and are unable to operate, and dozens of primary care centers have been damaged. The warehouse where all the country’s vaccines and medicines are kept has been seriously damaged. Some of the supplies have already been moved to other locations, however, following the explosion, the warehouse is in need of repairs and renovations.
Mental health services must be a crucial part of the response, both for the affected population and for health and humanitarian professionals who may be suffering from the trauma of the explosion. Provision of these services must be strengthened in all primary health care centers, especially in areas impacted by the explosion and areas where people have been relocated.
While Action Against Hunger’s offices in Beirut suffered damage, we are relieved that all of our staff members are well and ready to do whatever they can to help those in need. Currently, we are working with the Lebanese Protection Consortium and other international organizations to rapidly identify humanitarian needs and implement a response as soon as possible.