Lebanese and refugees 'struggling to cope' six months after deadly Beirut blast: IRC

Lebanese and refugees 'struggling to cope' six months after deadly Beirut blast: IRC
Hunger, unemployment, and violence are widespread in Lebanon, six months after the deadly Beirut blast.
3 min read
04 February, 2021
The blast destroyed large parts of the capital [Getty]

Lebanon is still reeling from the effects of the 4 August Beirut blast with many families unable to afford food, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has said.

Many more Lebanese and refugee families are experiencing mass unemployment, hunger, and violence, compounding the countless economic and social problems that existed before the blast, the humanitarian organisation reported in a statement.

The IRC has called for greater international assistance for those affected by the Port of Beirut explosion, which ripped through the Lebanese capital killing at least 200 people.

"Six months since the explosions in Beirut, not just the city, but the entire country is still reeling from the effects," said Matias Meier, Country Director for the IRC in Lebanon, in a statement.

"This time last year, Lebanon was already hurtling towards what has become the worst economic and financial crisis the country has ever been through and, even back then, people were struggling."

Food prices have risen by 420 percent over the past six months, while job losses mean that many families are now going hungry.

With more than 1 million people now living below the poverty line with the situation worsening for many families.

"The pressure people are under to try and make ends meet is more than many can cope with. For some, they have reached such depths of despair that they have tried to end their own lives," said Meier.

"We are supporting the most vulnerable by providing emergency cash assistance, but the needs are vast and the suffering is continuing to grow." 

Among the worst-hit communities in Lebanon are Syrian refugees with food assistance now a priority for 88 percent of the group, rising from 32 percent prior to the blast.

"The gravity of the situation for both Lebanese and refugee communities cannot be understated and the emotional strain that people are under cannot be underestimated," said Meier.

The IRC reported that women, in particular, have been subject to horrific experiences, including sexual assault and domestic violence.

"These are very dark times for Lebanon and, six months on from the blast, the country still needs support," said Meier.

"The international community rallied round in the immediate aftermath of the explosions, and it is vital that this support continues so that those most in need - and the country as a whole - can get back on their feet."

In addition to the huge death toll, the 4 August Beirut blast left thousands injured and sparked a mental health crisis, with many families left fending for themselves or relying on assistance from aid agencies.

The explosion was caused by a huge pile of ammonium phosphate improperly stored at a port warehouse, causing one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts in history. 

Authorities have been accused of gross negligence and Lebanese have called for justice.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday accused Lebanon's political leaders have been accused of "stalling" an investigation into the blast.

"The stalled domestic investigation, riddled with serious due process violations, as well as political leaders’ attempts to stop the investigation reinforce the need for an independent, international inquiry," Human Rights Watch said in a statement published on Wednesday.

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