The Beirut blasts: a one-year update

By: Judith Faucher, International Projects Funding Officer

On August 4, 2020, a dockside fire in Beirut, Lebanon, triggered a series of explosions in a chemical storage unit. So powerful were the twin blasts that a regional seismological observatory registered them as a magnitude 4.5 earthquake. The consequences were devastating. More than 200 people were killed, more than 7,500 people were injured and about 300,000 people were displaced.

Development and Peace — Caritas Canada launched an emergency fund to help the victims. Our members and supporters responded unstintingly, helping raise over $700,000. This allowed us to support our local partners’ on-the-ground emergency response.

On behalf of these partners and the people they serve, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your solidarity.

Serving the most vulnerable people

Over the past 12 months, our partners, Caritas Lebanon and Basmeh and Zeitooneh, have helped some the most marginalized of the victims. They provided:

  • Dairy processing skills training, job kits and linkages with the local market to women’s groups from blast-affected urban areas to help them set up small businesses
  • Income generation support to help 145 Syrian and Lebanese secure their basic needs through labour-intensive clean-up and recovery work
  • Shelter, medical assistance, mental health and psychosocial services, legal counselling, social activities and skills training to 30 female migrant domestic workers and victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking
  • Critical lifesaving services including basic assistance packages, medical assistance and mental health and psychosocial services to 130 vulnerable migrant workers

A focus on health and hygiene

Thanks to generous funding from Quebec’s Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie, Development and Peace could offer additional support to Caritas Lebanon, enabling it to reach some 9,000 victims of the explosions (including 5,100 women and girls) with:

  • Primary health care services
  • Psychological first aid, mental health follow-ups and psychosocial support (including psychosocial recreational activities for children)
  • Hygiene and disinfection kits and personal protective equipment

Bridging the divides

Decades of regional conflict, a 15-year civil war and enduring instabilities have left Lebanon fragmented along political, social and religious lines. Power is shared by Muslim and Christian groups, but peace remains precarious. In this scenario, our long-term development partners, Adyan Foundation and PAX, have sustained their important work in the explosions’ aftermath through advocacy, dialogues, roundtables, networking, training, capacity-building and peace-building initiatives aimed at strengthening democracy, citizenship and social cohesion.

Ongoing challenges

With the COVID-19 pandemic compounding ongoing economic and political crises, Lebanon’s overall situation remains alarming. Millions have seen their living conditions deteriorate, a third of Lebanese children go to bed hungry and more than half the population now lives in poverty. That is why we need more of support to fulfill the objectives of our 2020-2022 Lebanon program framework, which are to:

  1. Address immediate basic needs (health, shelter and protection)
  2. Enable people to regain their autonomy and self-sufficiency
  3. Empower people to take their rightful place at the heart of the country’s renewal

We know that you are keeping the Lebanese people in your thoughts and prayers. Your generosity continues to be needed and sincerely appreciated.