Beirut, Lebanon, February 4, 2021 — Six months ago, an estimated 300,000 people were displaced from their homes by the explosions at Beirut Port on August 4 - one third of them children. Over 6,500 people were injured. The IRC is continuing to provide support to help the most vulnerable get back on their feet, but the explosions came at a critical juncture: the economy was already in freefall, COVID-19 had drained the health sector and the country was already hosting large numbers of refugees who had fled the war in Syria. This ‘triple crisis’ quickly turned into a ‘quadruple crisis’, further deepening the suffering of people who had already been pushed to the brink. Today, the needs remain vast, and are continuing to grow.
Matias Meier, Country Director for the International Rescue Committee in Lebanon, said:
“Six months since the explosions in Beirut, not just the city, but the entire country is still reeling from the effects. This time last year, Lebanon was already hurtling towards what has become the worst economic and financial crisis the country has ever been through and, even back then, people were struggling. Now the pandemic, the blast and the multiple lockdowns have combined to make the situation even worse. Vulnerable Lebanese families have lost almost everything that was keeping them afloat and across the country, nearly one million people are now living below the poverty line.
“Over the past year, the cost of food has gone up more than 420%. People have lost their jobs and many can no longer afford to feed their families. The pressure people are under to try and make ends meet is more than many can cope with. For some, they have reached such depths of despair that they have tried to end their own lives. We are supporting the most vulnerable by providing emergency cash assistance, but the needs are vast and the suffering is continuing to grow. For Syrian refugees, life is especially hard. In March, food assistance was the number one priority for 32% of those the IRC surveyed. Now, a staggering 88% have identified it as their greatest need. For women also, there is an added layer of suffering. After the blast, incidents of sexual assault increased substantially, and for women across the country the lockdowns have been particularly difficult, with intimate partner violence increasing significantly during these periods.
“The gravity of the situation for both Lebanese and refugee communities cannot be understated and the emotional strain that people are under cannot be underestimated. These are very dark times for Lebanon and, six months on from the blast, the country still needs support. The international community rallied round in the immediate aftermath of the explosions, and it is vital that this support continues so that those most in need - and the country as a whole - can get back on their feet.”
The IRC’s current response in Beirut
The International Rescue Committee is providing emergency cash and protection assistance - including psychological first aid - to those impacted and displaced by the August 4th explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. We are prioritising 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 programmes 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.