One year ago, a blast ripped through Beirut, taking 200 lives, and causing widespread and long-lasting injury, destruction, and devastation to more than one third of the city. In the immediate aftermath and in the year since, we have seen the people of Beirut act as first responders and a support system for each other.
Communities are still fighting for accountability, justice, and the resources to rebuild. Persistent inequality, super charged by a combination of the economic crisis, the impact of the pandemic and the blast has thrust the residents of Beirut further into vulnerability. The Lebanese Lira has lost over 92% of its value to the US dollar in the parallel market, causing prices of essential items, including food necessities, to double and triple. Basic resources are scarce in country, with people queuing for hours at gas stations to fill up their tanks and medicine unavailable across pharmacies.
“The multiple crises that have hit the country before the blast, and which continued to worsen after it, are affecting all residents of Lebanon like never before,” said Bachir Ayoub, Acting Country Director. “We are headed towards a humanitarian crisis that is already starting to manifest its effects, with more than 75% of the population in need of some form of assistance.”
In response to the August 4 explosion, Oxfam has adapted its programs, and is partnering with 11 local organizations to provide emergency relief like cash assistance, food, sanitation, and shelter materials. We have also helped to provide longer-term resources for people to rebuild their homes and businesses, support for mental and physical health, legal assistance, and more, making sure that marginalized groups like women, girls, migrant workers, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQI+ community’s needs are identified and met.
“The needs after the blast were immense, and the LGBTQI community was affected enormously, especially when it comes to access to safe spaces, mental health services, and basic needs,” said Tarek Zeidan, Executive Director of Helem, one of Oxfam’s partners working on LGBTQI rights. “One year on, and nothing has gotten better; we are still seeking justice, fighting for our basic rights, and attempting to survive the crises that are suffocating our country.”
Oxfam is also advocating for more equitable policies, universal social protection schemes, necessary governmental reforms, and immediate relief to those affected by the crises.
Some worrying facts and numbers one year on;
- Lebanon is experiencing four concurrent crises (1) Economic crisis, (2) COVID-19 Outbreak, (3) Aftermath of the Beirut blast, (4) Political Deadlock on top of the on-going Syrian crisis.
- The World Bank said that Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis could rank as one of the three most severe the world has seen since the mid-19th century.
- Since October 2019, the Lira has lost more than 91% of its value to the US Dollar on the parallel market due to shortages in foreign currency in country.
- Year-on-year inflation in Lebanon in the month of July 2021 on essential food products have reached 150% (Crisis Observatory and the Ministry of Economy)
- 77% of households do not have enough money to buy food, or enough food . The figure reaches 99% among Syrian Refugees (UNICEF).
- The last week of June witnessed a 40% increase in fuel prices, amid a shortage that is felt across the country, with cars queuing for hours at gas stations to fill up their tanks.
- Power cuts are still very frequent, with some areas, including Beirut, surviving on 2 hours per day of state power.
- Medication shortages are felt across the country, with essential medications to treat issues such as mental health, chronic diseases not available at all.