Thousands Homeless and in Need of Food and Water After Beirut Explosion

The August 4 explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, disrupted basic water and sanitation services in many of the city’s neighborhoods, including Gemmayze, Mar Mikhael, Karantina and Geitawi. More than half of the city’s hospitals report equipment shortages, and 37% were moderately or severely damaged in the blast.

Some families depend on the distribution of clean water, hygiene kits, and disinfection supplies as water and sanitation networks are being rebuilt. In addition, social tensions have continued even after the governing administration resigned.

"Our priority right now is to speed up the return of access to basic services, to facilitate the dignified and safe return home for the displaced, to support hospitals, primary care centers and mobile clinics, and to provide emergency supplies," says Beatriz Navarro, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Lebanon. "We are focused on rapid support and coordination among local and international organizations, agencies, and actors involved in the humanitarian response.”

Our team in Lebanon is assessing the situation to respond to the needs of people who were already suffering the consequences of a multi-sectoral crisis: social, political, economic, health, and refugee.

"Our teams are already on the ground working to remove and dispose of debris through the deployment of excavators and trucks, in coordination and support with local actors and volunteers," adds Beatriz. "As humanitarian needs change, we plan to repair water and sanitation structures while distributing essential non-food items.”

As the city clears rubble, COVID-19 cases are rising by the day. Since August 4, more than 2,350 cases have been reported in Lebanon – increasing the previous caseload total by more than 30% – and 16 people have died of the coronavirus, bringing the total death toll to 92. With more than 300,000 people left homeless by the explosion, prevention practices and social distancing measures are very difficult to adhere to, facilitating further community transmission of the virus. We have adapted our emergency response to integrate health and safety measures to ensure that our teams and the people we serve are protected from the spread of disease.

In the days and weeks ahead, we plan to support the most vulnerable displaced families with cash transfers, helping them pay for housing and immediate needs. The explosion destroyed 85% of Lebanon’s cereal reserves, and we anticipate that food shortages will affect much of the country’s population. Our teams are focusing on ensuring that pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children under five years of age receive the nutrition they need.

"We are very concerned about the impact of this emergency on food security,” concludes Navarro. “The Lebanese people are suffering from the combination of multiple crises, which requires a cross-cutting response that includes short- and medium-term measures.”

Action Against Hunger is the world’s hunger specialist and leader in a global movement that aims to end life-threatening hunger for good within our lifetimes. For more than 40 years, the humanitarian and development organization has been on the front lines, treating and preventing hunger across nearly 50 countries. It served more than 17 million people in 2019 alone.