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Oxfam prepares response to Beirut blast

By Oxfam
A large explostion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, damaged the city made 300,000 people homeless. Oxfam is working with local groups to assess the damage and prepair a humanitarian response. Mikhail Alaeddin / Sputnik via AP

We are working with local partners to assess damage and provide help to those who have lost their homes and livelihoods.

Following a devastating explosion in the port of Beirut, Oxfam is working with local partners to assess how we can help those who have lost their homes and livelihoods.

Oxfam staff in Lebanon are sharing concerns about the communities’ ability to recover from this latest crisis across Beirut and all of Lebanon.

Even before the blast, Lebanon was at a breaking point, according to Bachir Ayoub, Oxfam’s policy lead in Lebanon. “Lebanon was already struggling to cope,” he says, a day after the blast in the city. “The economy has been in a tailspin, the local currency has lost approximately 80 percent of its value, and the last month has seen a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases with hospitals already under pressure.”

The scale and magnitude of the disaster mean hundreds of thousands of people now need immediate aid including food, shelter, water, fuel, protection, and support to rebuild their lives and livelihoods well into the future. One Oxfam colleague called the aftermath “apocalyptic.”

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“People whose homes have been damaged or completely destroyed will not be able to access their money to start to repair or rebuild,” Ayoub says. “Essential items like wheat and medicine will soon be scarce, as the Port of Beirut, the major storage and supply point, has been obliterated. A massive effort will be required to recover.”

Oxfam is now consulting with partners and communities in Lebanon on how best to respond as the city, including Oxfam staff, recover from injuries and damaged homes, search for missing friends and loved ones, and consider how best to move forward. Areas of assistance are most likely to be in water, sanitation, distribution of hygiene items, protection services including support to survivors of gender-based violence, and financial assistance to enable people to meet their most urgent needs.

Oxfam’s experience in Lebanon spans decades, and until this week has been focused on providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people affected by conflict, and promoting economic development, good governance at a local and national level, and women’s rights through work with local partners.

Lebanon currently hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world: one out of every four people. In response to the Syria crisis, Oxfam has been providing water and sanitation, and emergency cash assistance for both refugees and poor Lebanese, and supporting small businesses and private-sector job creation. Oxfam is currently working in North Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, South Lebanon, and in Palestinian camps and gatherings.

In the United States, Oxfam is calling on its supporters to provide donations that will help Oxfam expand its work to help people in Beirut, and is encouraging the US government to provide urgent and ongoing humanitarian aid to help Lebanon recover and rebuild.

“The devastation in Beirut is unimaginable,” Ayoub goes on to say. “The road to recovery will be long and hard. Like all of Beirut, Oxfam staff have been affected. Some have had homes completely destroyed, others have sustained injuries.”

Lebanese organizations are coming together to help each other, and Ayoub points out that assisting these groups is crucial at this time. “We stand in solidarity with all who have been affected as we work together to rebuild.”

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