UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and other humanitarian partners in Lebanon are rushing to support the government-led response following the deadly and devastating blast that ripped through Beirut this Tuesday (August 4).
Given the impact of the massive explosion, we fear that the casualties and injured may also include refugees living in Beirut. Some of the areas severely affected by the powerful blast included neighborhoods that hosted refugees and while we continue to assess the situation, we have received initial, yet unconfirmed reports of several deaths among refugees in Beirut. We work with the rescue teams and other humanitarian workers to help with identification and support to grieving families.
All UNHCR staff are accounted for.
Our immediate humanitarian efforts are focused on three key areas – shelter, health and protection.
Hundreds of thousands of people have had their homes completely or partially damaged in the explosion. The need for shelter is massive. UNHCR is making available its in-country stocks of shelter kits, plastic sheets, rub-halls, and tens of thousands of other core relief items including blankets and mattresses for immediate distribution and use.
UNHCR’s ongoing health response for COVID-19 is continuing in this latest emergency. A first phase of expanding hospital bed and ICU capacity including with medical supplies and equipment, ventilators, and patient beds was completed last week. A second phase is being expedited in light of the saturation of hospitals. This support will help decrease the pressure on the currently overwhelmed hospitals and allow more patients to be treated promptly. These additional capacities are available to all those in need.
Protection is another critical area of intervention in the current emergency response, particularly mental health and psychosocial support. UNHCR’s reception centres across the country, including in Beirut, are open for critical/emergency cases, with all COVID-related social distancing measures, and the national call centre as well as regional hotlines across the country been fully manned to respond to requests for assistance.
The massive explosion adds to the already severe economic crisis that had pushed many Lebanese and refugees there deeper into poverty, further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. UNHCR calls on the international community to stand by Lebanon, show solidarity and provide timely and meaningful support to Lebanon and Lebanese people who have been generous hosts to refugees.