UNITED STATES. New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres remarks to a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Lebanon, in New York on 10th August. The blast made a colossal toxic cloud that was visible for miles. The shock waves were felt across the city and indeed across the Mediterranean. The economic, social and other reverberations will be felt for some time to come.
The United Nations has undertaken a swift and wide-ranging response. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs helped to organize the deployment of experts from the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group and the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination system to help first responders in Beirut. A plane carrying 20 tons of World Health Organization health supplies landed in Beirut on Wednesday to cover 1,000 trauma interventions and 1,000 surgical interventions for people suffering from injuries and burns as a result of the blast. Within hours of the blast, the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon released $9 million from the Lebanon Humanitarian Fund to address immediate needs. On Friday, the Emergency Relief Coordinator released a further $6 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund.
The World Food Programme
The United Nations is supporting the Lebanese Red Cross and other partners in providing temporary shelter for displaced families. “The World Food Programme is importing wheat flour and grains for bakeries and mills to help protect against food shortages across the country, given that the port had housed Lebanon’s only major grain silo. The United Nations system will continue to support Lebanon in every possible way through this emergency,” Guterres says.
The blast has come at an already difficult time for Lebanon, with the country already facing economic hardship and impacts of the coronavirus. In the face of multiple challenges, the people of Lebanon have remained generous hosts to large Palestine and Syrian refugee communities. The legendary strength of the Lebanese people now faces an additional test. In the past few days, we have seen that spirit yet again — neighbours helping neighbours, people clearing their streets of broken glass and opening their homes to those who have lost theirs.
Guterres mentioned “I call for robust international support for all people in need in Lebanon, especially women and girls who are most vulnerable in times of crisis. I thank those countries that are already providing tangible financial, material and specialized service. I urge donors to give speedily and generously. At this time of both sorrow and prolonged frustration, the anger of the Lebanese people is palpable. Their voices must be heard. It is important that a credible and transparent investigation determine the cause of the explosion and bring about the accountability demanded by the Lebanese people”.