Posts

Beirut port explosionUnited States President Joe Biden pledged $100 million in aid to Lebanon on the one-year anniversary of the Beirut explosion. On the evening of August 4, 2020, more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded at the port of Beirut. More than 200 people died as a result of the tragedy, thousands more suffered injuries and 80,000 children lost their homes. A year later, the Lebanese people continue to grapple with the shattering of their capital and families are seeking some form of justice. As Beirut continues on the road to recovery, a global leader investing in Lebanon is a step in the right direction.

Lebanese Government Culpability

After the initial shock of the explosion, the Lebanese people searched for explanations as to why the disaster occurred. According to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) compiled with the assistance of “investigative journalists and independent researchers,” Lebanon’s leaders were in fact aware of the precarious storage of the explosives. The leaders, including the president and prime minister, allegedly did not take the steps necessary to stow the ammonium nitrate properly. Moreover, HRW declared that evidence “strongly suggests” that some Lebanese government officials anticipated the potential destruction from the ammonium nitrate’s storage and “tacitly accepted the risk of the deaths occurring.” Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned after the outrage surrounding the Lebanese government’s alleged implication.  A year after his resignation, there have been no prosecutions issued and no Lebanese senior politicians have taken responsibility for the tragedy.

Grassroots Support in Beirut

According to HRW, the explosion damaged 77,000 Beirut apartments and displaced more than 300,000 people. Coupled with the business shutdowns and economic uncertainty produced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lebanon is facing the “most severe economic crisis in its modern history.” Consequently, 55% of Lebanese people currently live below the poverty line. Without the support of the Lebanese government, Beirut has had to rely on the resilience of its people to recover. In particular, women-led organizations play a vital role in the city’s initial recovery efforts. Grassroots organizations including Live Love Lebanon, Stand for Women and the Lebanese Democratic Women’s Gathering are significantly helping to aid victims. The organizations have helped clean the streets and remove debris. In addition, U.N. Women is partnering with these organizations to aid the recovery of women-owned businesses.

The Need for Internal Reform

In addition to the $100 million pledge, Biden conveyed his condolences to the families who lost loved ones. He also urges other global leaders to “step up their support for Lebanese people.” Moreover, Biden explains that Beirut’s economic recovery largely depends on the Lebanese leaders’ dismantling of the country’s political corruption. Although Biden affirms that the United States will “be here every step of the way” to support the Lebanese government’s efforts to create a stronger future for the Lebanese people, he notes that unless Lebanese leaders commit to reform, no outside aid will be truly effective.

From the Syrian humanitarian crisis to the Beirut blast, the United States asserts its position as a global leader by assisting vulnerable people across the world in their most dire times of need. With further support from the international community, hope is on the horizon for the full recovery of Lebanon.

– Madeline Murphy
Photo: Unsplash

3RF: Helping Lebanon Recover from the Beirut Explosion
The United Nations has announced a new plan to support Lebanon after Beirut’s deadly explosion in August 2020. Operating in conjunction with the World Bank and the European Union, the U.N. has named its program 3RF, short for “Reform, Recovery[ ] and Reconstruction Framework.” Lebanon has long struggled under the weight of political and economic crises, which the explosion in its capital city only exacerbated. Therefore, 3RF comes as an effort from the international community to improve conditions in Lebanon over the long term.

An Explosion in the Capital

Shortly after 6 p.m. local time on August 4, 2020, a colossal explosion at Beirut’s port sent shockwaves rippling through the city. The disaster killed 200 people, injured thousands more and rendered approximately 300,000 individuals—out of the city’s total population of 2 million—homeless and destitute.

Officials have since identified the cause of the explosion as 2,750 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate, a chemical found in fertilizer. A welding project in one of the port’s warehouses sparked a fire that triggered the blast.

Shockwaves blew out windows at Beirut International Airport five miles away, and scientists from the United States Geological Survey reported that these equated to a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. Besides destroying commercial buildings and residential properties, the explosion also incapacitated three major hospitals and more than 24 clinics. Victims flooded the remaining healthcare centers, placing further strain on a system already contending with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economic Crisis

Unfortunately, Lebanon was beset by problems before the August 2020 explosion. Public discontent has simmered for years, stoked by political corruption, economic hardship and a government struggling to provide services like reliable power and clean drinking water.

In October 2019, following a foreign currency shortage and the eruption of major wildfires, the Lebanese government announced new taxes in a bid to raise desperately needed revenue. However, the Lebanese government scrapped the plans after large-scale protests gripped the country.

Then, after lockdown measures underwent implementation in March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19, Lebanon’s economic crisis worsened. As businesses had to fire employees or place them on furlough without pay, prices on basic goods rose to prohibitory levels. In May 2020, former Prime Minister Hassan Diab wrote in The Washington Post that much of the country’s population had ceased buying meat and fresh produce and that soon people would be unable to afford bread.

Poverty and Corruption

The blast in Beirut has significantly compounded the hardships that Lebanese people have faced. Many residents within the financial capital have experienced trauma, including older citizens for whom the explosion brought up memories of the violent Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Additionally, more than 55% of the country lives below the poverty line, almost doubling the percentage registered in 2019. Extreme poverty has also surged within the past year, rising from 8% to 23%.

Unfortunately, corruption among Lebanese political elites has meant the lack of a government-led recovery plan. Popular protests in the wake of revelations about mismanagement of the ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port led to the mass resignation of then Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government. Instead, volunteers and NGOs have spearheaded efforts to clean up the city. Funds raised abroad have gone straight to these NGOs on the ground, bypassing the Lebanese government due to the international community’s lack of trust in its leaders.

3RF and Lebanon’s future

The program 3RF aims to address the desperate situation in Lebanon. Announced at the recent International Conference in Support of the Lebanese People, the plan underscores urgent needs for political reform to solve the root causes of Lebanon’s economic crisis. Such reforms will facilitate recovery and reconstruction in the long run.

For his part, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called upon political leaders in Lebanon “to put aside partisan political interests and form a government that adequately protects and responds to the needs of the people.” The International Monetary Fund also promised to help but emphasized the importance of active participation from a legitimate Lebanese government during the reform process.

Conditions for Lebanon’s people have been difficult during 2020. Stemming from a spiraling economy and political corruption, the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port exacerbated these hardships. With thousands of people homeless and poverty rising, the U.N.’s 3RF will hopefully provide immediate relief while also laying the foundation for better governance in the future. Pressure from the international community can likewise encourage Lebanese leaders to form a new government and begin implementing necessary reforms.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Why Humanitarian Aid is Critical in LebanonHumanitarian aid is of vital importance to a country such as Lebanon. As of August 2020, the U.N. reported that over half of the population in the country is living in poverty. It is estimated that somewhere above 55% of the population is impoverished. This is due in part to the economic and political crisis that has been plaguing the country long before the current global COVID-19 pandemic or the explosion in Beirut earlier this year. However, numerous donors throughout the world have pledged to offer humanitarian aid to Lebanon so that it can survive its current hardships.

Why is Humanitarian Aid for Lebanon Important Today?

The main reason humanitarian aid is critical in Lebanon today is because of the large number of Syrian refugees that have flooded the country. These Syrian refugees have fled their country due to the ongoing civil war. Lebanon hosts the largest amount of Syrian refugees in the world, with a total of 1.5 million of them residing there. It is this high increase of population within Lebanon that has caused a strain on vital services for refugees. Because of this, Lebanese authorities have been restricting more refugees from coming into the country. Lebanese authorities have also refused to build camps for the refugees. These factors have all led to worsened conditions for the refugees.

Doctors of the World: Aiding Refugees in Lebanon

One humanitarian organization that has been offering aid in Lebanon is the French Medecins du Monde or Doctors of the World. They have been providing substantial help to the refugees within the country. The group has mainly been operating in five healthcare centers that are located in the Lebanon Mount region and the Baqqa Valley of Lebanon. These two areas have a high concentration of refugees. Just in 2019, Medecins du Monde was able to provide 98, 390 health consultations, 3, 577 sexual and reproductive healthcare sessions and 30 training sessions to healthcare workers. Médecins du Monde has also been able to provide medication to the most vulnerable of refugees and mental health support.

The Beirut Explosion

The Beirut explosion has only exacerbated the need for humanitarian aid in Lebanon. Fortunately, a vast array of humanitarian organizations such as the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations have risen to the challenge. This organization has been able to provide humanitarian aid in the form of 50 tons of medical supplies and food items. The European Council was able to obtain pledges of up to 252.7 million Euros to be used for humanitarian aid for Lebanon. Of all the contributors the EU was the largest contributor, offering 63 million in Euros. Since 2011, the EU has in total offered 660 million Euros to the refugees in Lebanon.

Additionally, 60% of the EU humanitarian aid provided for refugees in Lebanon is multi-purpose cash assistance. The other 40% of EU assistance addresses other emergencies and needs. Cash assistance allows refugees to avoid the vulnerability that comes with a worsening socio-economic crisis in the country. In just 2019 this type of assistance was able to provide assistance to over 338,000 people within the country. Much of this type of aid was used to purchase essential items and services.

Lebanon has been dealing with a variety of challenges, one of them being its large population of refugees. However, many humanitarian organizations have been offering assistance to the country and its refugees. Today, humanitarian aid is critical in Lebanon. As members of the international community, we must do our part to help Lebanon and Syrian refugees in their time of need.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

recovery after the Beirut ExplosionOn Aug. 4, 2020, a warehouse fire at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon led to a large explosion. There was a significant amount of property damage and loss of life. The blast leveled the surrounding dockside area and sent shock waves throughout much of the city, causing widespread destruction. It was reported that at least 200 people were killed and over 5,000 were injured. In addition, 300,000 are estimated to be left homeless. This explosion is considered to be “unquestionably one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, far bigger than any conventional weapon” according to the BBC. Thankfully, UNICEF stepped in to aid in recovery after the Beirut explosion with multiple programs directed at short-term and long-term benefits.

UNICEF Aids in Recovery After the Beirut Explosion

It is difficult to imagine the devastating impact that a disaster of this magnitude has on people. This is especially true for families and children living in the affected areas. In the days immediately following the explosion, UNICEF reported that 80,000 children had been displaced, at least 12 children’s hospitals and other family healthcare facilities were destroyed. Many schools reported varying levels of damages and numerous children were missing or separated from their families. Thankfully, UNICEF stepped in to help children and families struggling with the short- and long-term effects of this disaster. They instituted multiple programs providing both immediate relief and continuing assistance in rebuilding.

These are just some of the ways that UNICEF has helped Beirut recover after the explosion.

WASH Program

One of the first actions taken by UNICEF for recovery after the Beirut explosion was to restore water service to damaged homes and facilities. In the past, the organization has provided Lebanese families with clean and accessible water through the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) program. After the explosion, this program was reoriented to focus on restoring and repairing water supplies in Beirut. Working with partner NGOs LebRelief and DPNA, UNICEF conducted house-to-house surveys and technical assessments of the damage and required assistance. In buildings such as schools and hospitals that sustained heavy damage, UNICEF and DPNA installed 1,000-liter water tanks. They repaired damaged or leaking pipes quickly so that these facilities could continue serving the community. Many of these installations and repairs are also being performed by Lebanese youth through a UNICEF program. It trains them on how to re-establish water connections for future career skills. Additionally, UNICEF and LebRelief restored water service to homes with vulnerable families affected by the explosion. They operated quickly to have water connections reestablished within days.

Hygiene and Baby Care Kits

Another important aspect of UNICEF’s response program in Beirut was to provide hygiene and baby care kits to vulnerable families, such as those with young children and damaged water service. These kits provide necessary supplies for dental, feminine and personal hygiene. There are also separate baby care kits containing creams, basic clothing and diapers. They are intended to support a family of five for up to one month and are delivered door-to-door as well as at temporary distribution centers. Through partnerships with various local organizations such as Medair, the Lebanese Red Cross, Concern Worldwide and Solidarités International, UNICEF was able to gather 10,000 kits and rapidly distribute over 5,000 of them by early September.

Safe Parks

The Beirut explosion caused long-lasting damage that necessitates assistance even after the initial need for emergency response has ended. This is especially true for many children, who must now deal with the trauma and destruction of the explosion on top of the changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Schools are closed and many homes are destroyed. As a part of recovery after the Beirut explosion, children need a place where they can be physically safe and find some form of normalcy and fun. UNICEF established safe parks in the heavily affected areas of Geitawi, Basta and Karatina. These parks provide children with psychosocial support and basic education in a safe space. The parks allow them time to play and develop since schools in Beirut are closed indefinitely. Children struggling with the trauma after the explosion can benefit from the stability and support provided by these safe parks. They can play games, do simple lessons and learn about coronavirus safety. This is a valuable escape for children struggling emotionally or physically with the disaster’s aftermath.

Emergency Cash Grant for Recovery After the Beirut Explosion

Even over a month after the initial incident, UNICEF is still providing assistance to families living with the impact of the Beirut explosion. They launched an Emergency Cash Grant program on September 15 to provide financial support to vulnerable and struggling families. The grant is available to households in the most affected areas with children, people with disabilities, people over 70 or a female head of the household. Through this program, up to three vulnerable household members will receive a one-time cash grant of 840,000 Lebanese pounds. The money provided by UNICEF will allow families struggling with the effects of the explosion on top of the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis to support themselves and recover from the damage caused by this disaster. Applications for this grant are available online and at various in-person registration sites. UNICEF is raising awareness for the program through community outreach in affected areas.

The explosion in Beirut was a terrible tragedy that left many families struggling to get back on their feet. UNICEF’s numerous assistance programs are an invaluable aid to this city’s recovery efforts.

Allie Beutel
Photo: Flickr

effect on educationFor years, Lebanon has been a great place to go to school. In math and science education, the country of Lebanon ranks fourth in the world, according to the World Economic Forum. The explosion that occurred on August 4th, 2020, however, destroyed about 120 public and private schools in Beirut. The obstruction of schools will inevitably result in the obstruction of the Lebanese right to education and upwards movement in society. This article analyzes the blast’s effect on education, and how a lack of education resources in Beirut may lead to further concerns of poverty.

The Explosion

A lethal blast occurred at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon in early August. The explosion killed at least 200 people, according to the BBC, and injured around 5,000. It began as what seemed to be a warehouse fire, but it soon evolved into a catastrophic, supersonic blast that penetrated a large portion of the city. Before the explosion, Lebanon was already in an economic crisis. Nearly half of the population (45%) lives under the poverty line; the explosion has only worsened this number. Beirut’s governor stated that the financial damage to the city is $10-15 billion. The tragedy’s effect on education is a pervasive concern.

How Schools Are Impacted

Beirut was the education, publishing, and cultural capital of Lebanon, as asserted by Al-Fanar Media. With its well-known universities, Beirut was a place for locals and tourists alike to admire. The destruction to the city, though, is causing a major halt to the flourishing academic hub. The damages done to these universities amount to millions of dollars, according to the media advisor at the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Albert Chamoun.

Lebanon’s only public university, Lebanese University, has seen the worst damage out of all of Beirut’s universities. Given the financial status of Lebanon before the blast, the tragedy has only worsened the state of the university. Permanent closures may cost faculty their jobs, thus threatening them with potential poverty. Moreover, Collège du Sacré Coeur-Frères, or the Sacred Hear-Brothers College, founded in 1894, is another school affected by the blast. Considering that the school had 1,300 students enrolled, the destruction of the building hinders students’ ability to go back to school anytime soon, leaving them at home. The effects on education extend to faculty, students, and students’ families.

Future Poverty

In a country already riddled with poverty, “Lack of access to education is a major predictor of passing poverty from one generation to the next”. Schools and universities, like Lebanese University, are oftentimes young people’s only hope in moving up socioeconomically. Attaining literacy and numeracy skills greatly aids a young person’s ability to get a job in the future. Coupling this with the COVID-19 pandemic, online-learning is also not accessible for all students; many depend on in-person teaching simply because they do not have access to technology nor the internet while at home. The blast only furthered this technology gap, resulting in worse poverty for those involved in the tragic event.

According to Governer Marwan Abboud, about 300,000 people are currently without a home in Beirut. Without the reconstruction of schools, Lebanese children and young people face the lifelong threat of remaining in poverty. Therefore, the blast’s lasting effect on education directly relates to its’ effect on poverty levels in Lebanon.

Taking Action

The tragedy that occurred in Beirut is one that will permeate throughout the country for years to come. The effect on education is just one consequence of the deadly blast. Luckily, there are fundraisers and other efforts in place to help those affected by the Beirut blast, many of which involve education. Linked here is a GoFundMe to raise money for computers for students at Sacred Heart-Brothers College that do not have access to technology at home. In addition, UNICEF is helping reconstruct the damaged buildings in Beirut and aid Lebanese people across the country. They have delivered close to 20 shipments of PPE, nutrition supplies, and other hygiene necessities. They have also provided psycho-social first aid to children affected, along with caregivers that offer health referrals and counseling.

The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has proposed a fundraising appeal called Li Beirut, or “For Beirut.” The purpose of this fundraising is to reconstruct schools and museums that were affected by the blast. This proposal has the potential to help many children and adolescence retain their right to education and to move up in their economic class.

Anna Hoban
Photo: Pixabay

Beirut Explosion
Though there is still uncertainty about the massive explosion that occurred on August 4, 2020, near the port of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, there are some facts and predictions about the health outcomes that it has and will cause. NGOs mobilized humanitarian aid teams immediately after the tragedy in an effort to provide aid. The recent explosion could impact much of the population’s health, considering the mass amounts of ammonium nitrate and other toxins in the air, the falling infrastructure and destroyed hospitals, an increasing lack of access to healthcare and the rising demand for emergency response teams. The following four points are a few of the health outcomes and predictions regarding the Beirut explosion, as well as what organizations on the ground are doing to help those the explosion impacted the most.

4 Facts About How the Beirut Explosion Could Impact Health

  1. The toxins in the air could result in detrimental health impacts for much of the population. The Beirut explosion has a link to the storage of about 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. As a result, when the explosion occurred, it released multiple toxins into the air. The ammonia in the air is a corrosive gas that may cause cell damage, resulting in a burning feeling in a person’s eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract. Furthermore, it can cause lung damage, blindness and death. Additionally, the nitrogen oxides in the air are especially dangerous for those with respiratory issues. These toxins are also dangerous to newborns and pregnant women, and could likely cause premature death. The Lebanese Red Cross called for an immediate dispatch of all members in order to help those the explosion impacted. To date, millions of people around the world have donated to this organization.
  2. The explosion resulted in many casualties and some are still unknown. As of August 5, 2020, the death toll from the explosion was around 135, with many people still missing. There were over 5,000 people injured and four hospitals damaged in the blast. These numbers will likely increase in the coming weeks due to the impact of the blast. Additionally, at least 300,000 homes experienced damage and became uninhabitable, with estimates of around a quarter-million people now homeless, leading to further issues in health outcomes and disparities within the population. However, many volunteers, NGOs and the Lebanese Red Cross have set up base camps near the scene of the explosion and have been offering food, shelter and collecting donations and medical supplies to those who lost their homes. There have been other groups that have set up shelter for those who were homeless previous to the explosion and for those who have lost their homes due to the tragedy.
  3. COVID-19 cases are likely to increase. Due to the number of injured people, as well as the ever-increasing amount of hospital patients from the toxins in the air, there is a possibility that swarms of incoming patients will overwhelm hospitals. Additionally, because the Beirut explosion destroyed four hospitals, the loss of personal protection equipment supplies will likely impact the number of coronavirus patients in the coming weeks. According to the WHO, the tragedy reduced the number of hospital beds by 500-600. Due to the strained healthcare system from COVID-19, many organizations have set up camps and clinics near the scene for those who need medical assistance.
  4. The blast could trigger PTSD, depression and health status deterioration. A 2003 study of survivors of a church explosion in Lebanon found that one year after the explosion, 39% of victims had PTSD, 51% were depressed and 45% reported a deterioration in their health status. These percentages were significantly higher than those who did not experience the explosion. Currently, there are many groups on the ground that are working to support survivors of this explosion through medical assistance, offering shelter and food and giving financial support. The Lebanese Red Cross is working to meet emotional support needs and has trained team members who are providing crisis counseling to the community.

Beirut has a population of nearly 2.5 million people, all of whom may be at risk of detrimental health outcomes from the explosion. When considering the impacts of the toxins in the air, destroyed housing and other vital infrastructure and mental health impacts from the Beirut explosion, it is critical for experts to account for and properly assess present and future health outcomes in order to aid the affected civilians. The most reliable and effective place to donate is through the Lebanese Red Cross. Thirty teams mobilized to work on the ground in Beirut; they worked on rescuing and searching for the wounded, and treating them on-site and/or transporting them to hospitals. Additionally, Lebanese Red Cross teams have provided emergency shelter for thousands of families, with goals to shelter over 10,000 families in the coming months, as well as offer food, water, hygiene kits and PPE to families.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Wikipedia