Beirut explosions: How you can help
16 December 2020
On the evening of Tuesday 4 August, two explosions at the port of Lebanon’s capital city of Beirut sent an enormous shockwave across the city killing over 200 people and leaving more than 6,000 injured.
In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, rescue workers responded quickly - searching for missing people and providing emergency aid. Months later, rebuilding has started, but parts of Beirut remain uninhabitable.
Thousands of families were affected by the explosion. In the days following the explosion, many families slept in shattered homes or temporary accommodation, while also facing the deadly threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
"This explosion threatens to push many who were already suffering further into poverty and hunger."
Christine Allen, CAFOD Director
At least 300,000 homes were damaged, according to the Beirut governor Marwan Abboud and the UN now estimates that the total damages could reach 3-5 billion USD.
Following the explosion, Christine Allen, CAFOD’s Director, said:
“CAFOD expresses its deepest sympathies and prayers to the families of the victims, as well as to the people Lebanon, following the horrific explosions in Beirut.
“Local Lebanese organisations, that CAFOD works alongside, have told us of the widespread destruction that has swept the city. And, how their volunteers are already on the frontlines: assisting in hospitals and helping the injured.
“This disaster has happened at a challenging time for Lebanon, as they deal with the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s economic turmoil. This explosion threatens to push many who were already suffering further into poverty and hunger.
“CAFOD remains committed to supporting Lebanon at this difficult time.”
Please join us in praying for all those affected by these horrific explosions.
What was the situation in Lebanon when the explosion happened?
This disaster only added to an existing political and economic crisis, putting further stress on people as they struggle to cope in their daily lives.
Nearly 150,000 cases of coronavirus have now been reported in Lebanon.
Hospitals and doctors were already reporting shortages of vital medical supplies and PPE before the explosion. Many were turning away non-critical cases to conserve resources. They are now under even greater strain.
Lebanon’s economy is in freefall. Many are surviving by eating less food while sinking further into debt. The availability of food in the country is at high risk and this explosion will have long-lasting impacts on Lebanon’s precarious food security.
"Beirut is devastated and we are totally overwhelmed by the scale of the events."
Father Michel Abboud, President of Caritas Lebanon
How did CAFOD respond in the aftermath of the explosions?
In the immediate aftermath of the explosions, our network of local experts and volunteers are on the ground we able to:
- Give out hot meals and emergency food to 17,000 people, hygiene kits to 3,000 households, and medical services to 5,000 people.
- Provide psychological first aid directly to 1,000 people.
- Remove rubble from the streets and helping families to clean and shore up their homes as far as possible
- Provide emergency cash distribution to 3,000 households.
- Create a self-care hub for frontline workers
They were able to give this practical help to the most vulnerable families, including the elderly and those who've been left injured or jobless by the explosion.
Yasmin Kayali, co-founder of CAFOD's partner in Lebanon, Basmeh and Zeitooneh, spoke to CAFOD a month after the blast. She said:
"The last 25 days have gone by in a blur. It has been one of the most challenging times for us in our work.
"Since day one after the explosion, we and all our staff and the amazing volunteers that have joined us have been on the ground responding to people's initial needs - food, hot meals, removal of debris, emergency medical referrals - but over the past couple of weeks, this response has evolved.
"Now we are targeting the rehabilitation of homes and businesses, along with giving legal aid to refugee victims. We are also giving relief aid made up of food baskets, hygiene baskets and money to as many of the affected families as we can cover, making sure we leave no one behind and especially targeting the elderly, those who have lost heads of household, migrant workers and refugees.
"The road to recovery is very long and we must be very strategic in the way we get and use funding in order to make sure that we deliver the most widespread benefit. And in all this, it is very important to coordinate with others on the ground to avoid duplication and to also benefit from each other’s expertise."
CAFOD’s ongoing work in Lebanon
Through CAFOD’s extensive community network, we are well-placed to provide aid in some of the worst-hit and most inaccessible areas.
Local organisation Caritas Lebanon has a network of youth volunteers and staff who were able to actively respond to the huge explosion.
Since the explosion, their work has helped Caritas Lebanon to provide assistance to nearly 175,000 people in Beirut and its suburbs. This included providing nearly 125,000 hot meals and delivering over 5,000 food kits and 1,500 hygiene kits.
They were also able to offer medical aid and distribute over 32,000 medicines, alongside accessing over 1,000 houses for damage and renovating 500 houses.
Another organisation that CAFOD works alongside, Association Najdeh, were able to provide small cash grants to thousands of families, which they were able to use to pay for emergency needs – food and medical assistance – alongside paying for materials and labour to repair housing damaged by the explosion.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, our local experts have been continuing to provide food, shelter, water, and medical supplies to thousands of refugees in Lebanon and their host communities.
We have also adapted our work so that we continue to safely provide training, education, support to female-led co-operatives, and work to promote social cohesion and greater understanding among communities.