Islamic Relief Worldwide has pledged $ 5 million (approx. R87 million) in emergency funding to help the people of Lebanon recover from the huge explosion in Beirut on Tuesday 4 August and to support those worst affected – many of whom have lost everything.
The deadly blast in Lebanon’s capital has left a catastrophic level of casualties in its wake. Over 150 people are dead, and dozens are still missing. More than 300,000 people have been rendered homeless with the numbers expected to rise.
Hospitals are operating beyond their capacity to treat the wounded as over 5,000 people were admitted to different health facilities on the first day alone.
The explosion has exacerbated the already severe economic crisis in the country. For months many Lebanese families were struggling to survive as the Lebanese currency value dropped, and the unemployment rate passed 30%. Islamic Relief’s Country Director in Lebanon, Nidal Ali, expresses how profoundly the disaster is affecting communities on the ground:
“Food insecurity is likely to intensify in the coming weeks, the country’s wheat stock for the next 18 months was stored in a warehouse near the port, and we are expecting bakeries to run out of flour within days, which will create a massive crisis,” he explains.
“Most people have been able to find alternative temporary accommodation with families, friends and in their home villages or are staying temporarily in hotels. But the most impoverished – especially labourers – have nowhere to go and are completely without shelter or accommodation of any kind. Last night some slept in the streets among the rubble. A few hundred have not been able to find any kind of shelter.
“Our main goal right now is to provide food and water to those who need it urgently. We started distributing ready-to-eat meals, essential non-food items, hygiene kits and health assistance. Our team was on the ground yesterday clearing the roads with volunteer groups and other aid organisations, as well as many ordinary residents just doing what they can.”
The funds pledged by the global Islamic Relief family will fund several projects. Islamic Relief Lebanon is aiming to provide 7,500 people with food parcels for the next two months as well as non-food items such as lamps, fans, hygiene kits, tarpaulins and blankets for 10,000 people.
“The explosion will have a long-term impact on the entire country,” says Naser Haghamed, CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide. “We are working on plans to address longer-term development needs in Lebanon, including rehabilitation and livelihoods support that will aid the recovery of the Lebanese people and tackle the ongoing economic crisis and coronavirus outbreak.”
“This horrific incident could not have occurred at a worst time and has hit communities who were already suffering from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and the economic deterioration in Lebanon. Even before the Beirut explosion, thousands of families have been struggling to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and to put food on the table, with 50% of the Lebanese population living below the poverty line”, said Islamic Relief South Africa CEO, Yusuf Mohamed.
Lebanon was in lockdown because of a surge in COVID-19 infections when the explosion occurred. Currently, there is enormous pressure on the health sector as four main hospitals were damaged and stopped working when the blast struck the city. Intensive care units are already at full capacity with COVID-19 patients.
“We are very concerned about the COVID-19 situation,” adds Nidal Ali. “We were told that medicines and COVID-19 supplies such as masks, gloves and PPE were stored in the port and were all destroyed during the explosion. We are concerned there will be another outbreak in light of the recent events. Currently, we are supporting hospitals by providing ready-to-eat snacks for patients and staff. We have distributed 10,000 snacks since Tuesday.”
“Islamic Relief is committed to doing what we can and providing all the help and support possible. We have launched an Emergency Appeal to raise much needed funds for the immediate as well as medium term humanitarian interventions.
I wish to thank the many South Africans who swiftly and generously donated to our emergency appeal over these past few days. The people of Lebanon will need our continued support in the difficult weeks and months ahead, so we are appealing to all who are able to donate to do so. Lebanon needs us now more than ever.”
Yusuf Mohamed, CEO Islamic Relief South Africa