Beirut, Lebanon, August 14, 2020 — An estimated 150,000 women and girls have been displaced as a result of the explosion that devastated Beirut on August 4.
As Lebanon faces a dire economic crisis, IRC analysis suggests that 30,000 women were already unemployed - and that countless more have now lost their jobs. It is expected that these compounding crises will leave women even more vulnerable at this desperate time, with many becoming increasingly reliant on negative coping strategies such as skipping meals and incurring debt.
Before the blast, IRC teams were already seeing the results of COVID-19 compounding an already dire economic situation, with increases in the number of children - including girls - working in the street in Lebanon, as well as those engaged in other forms of child labour. Additionally, a recent IRC survey revealed that the second most common form of gender-based violence in the country was the forced and early marriage of girls. This risk may now increase given the most recent crisis will put increased pressure on many household incomes.
Since the explosion, although some of the women and girls affected have remained in their partially damaged homes - a situation that has its own dangers - many have relocated to temporary accommodation or shared shelters. In these locations they are at grave risk of gender-based violence, as well as sexual exploitation and abuse - which were already on the rise with COVID-19 - all while women’s and girls’ capacity to report and seek help diminishes, due to the COVID-19 escalation and restrictions on freedom of movement.
Matias Meier, the International Rescue Committee’s Country Director in Lebanon, said:
“The explosion has torn people’s lives apart and everyone in the city - and the country as a whole - has been devastated by the events of Tuesday, August 4. Although we have seen an incredible outpouring of support and solidarity from the local community, in an emergency situation like this, existing protection mechanisms that are usually in place to keep people safe often break down - and it is for this reason that women and girls are among those worst affected when disaster strikes. To assist those who are most vulnerable and most in need, it is crucial that we do not let anyone fall through the cracks. We estimate that over half of those displaced by the blast are women and girls.
“For single women, female-headed households and those without strong familial or community support networks, such as migrant workers, these coming weeks and months are going to be particularly difficult. Many will have witnessed the destruction of their homes and the death of friends or family. Hundreds will be recovering from physical injuries themselves and will be suffering from the psychological effects of what they have been through over the past week. Some will have life changing injuries. Some will need substantial emotional and psychological support to help them come to terms with this disaster, to mitigate against risks of violence and abuse, and to help them cope with the suffering they will continue to see around them over the coming months. We are providing emergency cash assistance and protection support to assist those in critical need, but we urgently need to scale-up our response to ensure that all women and girls are able to receive assistance in the long-term so that everyone who has been impacted, can get back on their feet.”
The International Rescue Committee’s current response in Beirut
The International Rescue Committee is currently working with local partner organisations to provide immediate cash and protection assistance - including psychological first aid - to those impacted and displaced by the August 4th explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. We are prioritizing children, families and individuals who were residing in blast-affected areas; suffered high levels of property damage or destruction of immediate livelihoods; and individuals and families with limited resources to cope with the effects of the damage to property and wellbeing. This includes persons with disabilities (both new and pre-existing), older persons without support networks, female-headed households, and families who have suffered physical injuries and/or severe psychological distress.
About the International Rescue Committee in Lebanon
The IRC began working in Lebanon in 2012, supporting both Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese communities. In 2019, the organisation reached over 89,000 people through its work implementing
education, economic recovery and development, and women’s and child protection programs in all regions of Lebanon. It also provides legal assistance and skills training, and across all programming it works to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.