Lebanon has already been facing an economic crisis, an influx of refugees, and a new spike in Covid-19 cases. This means that recovery from the August 4 explosion in Beirut will be daunting.
Before Tuesday, August 4, Lebanon was already at an impasse. It’ is in the throes of its worst economic crisis in recent history, which has only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. 33% of the country’s population lived at or below the poverty line last September — that number is now estimated to be approximately 45%. The country’s unemployment rate is now just above 30%. It is also host to the greatest concentration of refugees per capita in the world (over 20% of its population).
However, this week’s massive explosion in Beirut — Lebanon’s capital and main port city — has led to a more immediate emergency: More than 300,000 people have been left homeless, and over 5,000 injured. These injuries come on top of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, placing additional stress on the country’s medical and healthcare resources.
While the full scope of impact of this event is yet to be determined, the Beirut explosion is an example of how an emergency can further stress an already complex humanitarian situation. Here are just a few of the humanitarian impacts of this explosion, and how they fit together.
As one healthcare official told the press the day after the explosion, “We need everything to hospitalize the victims, and there is an acute shortage of everything.”
The explosion at the Port of Beirut destroyed one of the city’s main hospitals and damaged many other healthcare facilities, forcing many patients to be evacuated and creating an increased demand for beds in other nearby facilities. Some medical supplies were already in short supply due to the coronavirus. Beirut has had the highest concentration of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and had just last week implemented a new lockdown to control a second spike in infections.
The Port of Beirut also handled 80% of Lebanon’s food and medical imports, which means that getting supplies into the country now — and, more importantly, to where they are needed most in its capital — will involve contingency plans, such as delivering through the smaller port of Tripoli in the north (approximately 90 minutes away by car).