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Beirut explosions: What is happening two years on?

3 August 2022
Middle East - Lebanon - Caritas Lebanon respond to Beirut Explosion

A member of Caritas Lebanon hands a bag of essential items to a local woman in Beirut.

On the evening of Tuesday 4 August 2020, 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. 

At least 300,000 homes were damaged, and the UN estimated that the total damages could reach 3-5 billion USD.

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What has happened since the explosions? 

Since the explosion, the situation in Lebanon has become increasingly challenging. In addition to the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the devastating losses of the Beirut blast, Lebanon is in the midst of a major economic collapse, grappling with hyperinflation and shortages of basic items, including medicines and medical supplies.

The situation in Beirut is critical

According to the World Bank, the economic and financial crisis is ranked as possibly one of the top three most severe crises globally, with an estimated 50 per cent of the population now living below the poverty line.  

According to the United Nations, almost nine in ten displaced Syrian households are living in extreme poverty, with poverty levels also rising dramatically among Lebanese and Palestinian refugee populations.

And almost 90% of the Syrian refugee population lives at income levels below the Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket – which is the absolute minimum amount required to cover lifesaving needs – and 80% of Lebanese were pushed to live in multidimensional poverty in 2021.

Competition over scarce resources, access to employment opportunities and basic services has contributed to an increase in social tensions with many fearful of a return to civil war. 

In addition, the energy crisis in Lebanon is one of the repercussions of this severe economic and financial crisis that the country is witnessing. In a recent report from July 2022, UNICEF has warned that the water crisis in Lebanon puts the health of millions of people, especially children, at risk and that millions of people in the country are currently affected by the limited availability of clean and safe water.

Today, due to fire that weakened the silos at Beirut's blast-hit port in July 2022, these silos that still contain thousands of tonnes of wheat and corn are at risk of collapsing. Last April, the government had ordered the demolition of the silos due to safety risks, but it was suspended amid objections, including from relatives of blast victims who want the silos preserved as a memorial site.

The impact of your donations

Since the explosions occurred in 2020, CAFOD has supported local organisations in Lebanon to help people start to recover from the blast. Thanks to your donations to the Beirut Emergency Appeal over 11,000 people were reached with assistance, such as emergency cash assistance and self care and mental health support to front line workers affected by the blast.

Importantly, CAFOD’s partners have adapted their ongoing work to respond to the situation in Lebanon since the blast. 

Caritas Beirut explosion

Explosions in Beirut devastated homes and buildings

The response by CAFOD's local partners

Caritas Lebanon

5,031 people were supported with CAFOD's contribution and received:

  • hygiene kits

  • hot meals and/or food kits

  • help accessing medication/pharmaceutical assistance

  • help accessing first aid treatments

  • nursing care services

  • mental health and psychosocial support

  • house rehabilitation services

  • community engagement.

Basmeh & Zeitooneh

3,948 people were supported with CAFOD's contribution and received:

  • food parcels

  • hygiene kits and/or protection cash assistance

  • focused psychosocial support and case management sessions

  • positive parenting sessions

  • cash for work activities.

I used to be a taxi driver until my car was completely damaged and I couldn’t afford to fix it or to find another job so I suffered from depression for a long period because of my situation and what is happening in the country. Now I feel that I am making a difference in the community and I'm more productive!

Malake, 55, who took part in the Basmeh & Zeitooneh project

Association Najdeh

Supported 2,000 people with emergency cash assistance for food, medical expenses and construction materials.

As a Palestinian women’s organisation, Association Najdeh’s emergency intervention on behalf of all communities had many positive impacts beyond the initial response. This included creating an improved opinion of Palestinians, who are generally marginalised and discriminated against in Lebanon.

Middle East - Lebanon - Beirut explosions

Hospitals and doctors were already reporting shortages of vital medical supplies and PPE before the explosion. They are now under even greater strain. Photo credit: Caritas Lebanon

House of Peace

To date, CAFOD support has enabled us to reach 185 people. What began in the summer of 2020 as a new, emergency support programme has proved so successful that House of Peace has integrated its 'self care’ hub in to its ongoing programme of work on grassroots peacebuilding, enabling frontline workers to access the support they need to continue doing their important work in support of marginalised communities.

Mada Association

Since 2017, CAFOD funds have helped Mada Association, an NGO based in Beirut, deliver capacity-strengthening support to small civil society organisations – which, in the context of Lebanon’s intersecting crises, have never been so urgently needed. One of the organisations to benefit from CAFOD support via Mada Association is Nation Station. Since 2020, they have distributed 37,381 meals and 35 tonnes of fresh produce to those impacted by the blast, employing 36 local people.

How did CAFOD support organisations in Lebanon to respond immediately after the explosions?

In the immediate aftermath of the explosions, our network of local experts and volunteers were able to:

  • Give out hot meals and emergency food, hygiene kits, and medical services, alongside providing psychological first aid directly to 1,000 people.

  • Remove rubble from the streets and helped families to clean and shore up their homes as far as possible.

  • Provide emergency cash distribution to 3,000 households.

Our local experts 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.

Find out more about CAFOD's work in Lebanon

How can I help now?

Although our Beirut Emergency Appeal is now closed, CAFOD continues to respond to similar emergencies around the world.

How you can help in an emergency

Pray for Beirut

Prayers for those affected by the Beirut explosions in August 2020.