CARE International begins major response in Beirut

Beirut – CARE International will begin vital lifesaving food assistance, via local organisations, to thousands of people in Beirut after the devastating explosion that decimated much of the city’s port and surrounding areas; killing over 135 people and injuring 6,000 more so far.

“First thing Friday morning we will begin distributing hot meals and food parcels, through frontline local organisations already on the ground, to people in affected areas who have lost everything,” says Bujar Hoxha, CARE Lebanon Country Director.

CARE Lebanon’s versatile teams have already begun mobilising with a range of experts from shelter to social workers ready to respond; with a particular emphasis on women and girls who are most vulnerable in these situations.

“Right now, the main priorities are food and shelter as thousands of people have become homeless overnight. But we are also very worried about hygiene and sanitation conditions in the aftermath. Already in the last few days cases of COVID-19 have increased as health facilities are overwhelmed, and more people are coming in contact with each other than before. In the coming weeks we will also focus on providing hygiene products to households to try and help stem further waves of coronavirus on an already extremely vulnerable population,” Hoxha adds.

Traumatic events often lead to an increase in rates of gender-based violence. CARE will use the innovative approach of having social workers and midwives involved in the food distribution, so that they can use this as an opportunity to offer their services to those facing violence or needing protection.

The Beirut port is critical for the majority of imports and supplies of goods like food and basic goods into Lebanon and neighbouring war-torn Syria.

“80% of international supplies that were coming into Lebanon came through the port of Lebanon and now no longer exist,” says Hoxha “this was also the main port for supplies to Syria, and this tragedy means that nothing will get to Syria now either. Even switching to the port of Tripoli would only allow around 30% of goods to reach the country and neighbouring countries. The knock-on and long-term effects of this explosion are mind blowing, not just for Lebanon but for the region,” he adds.

CARE Lebanon is urgently calling for an additional US $10 million to help around 300,000 of the households worst affected and displaced by the explosion with food, shelter, hygiene and sanitation items as well as psychosocial support.

“Our staff are showing incredible dedication and passion to help, I have been inundated with staff offering to assist with this emergency response, despite suffering the trauma of it first-hand themselves. For them it is not work, it’s personal and it’s their homes,” concluded Hoxha.

Australians can contribute to CARE’s emergency response in Beirut here.

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