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ACT Alliance response in Beirut will engage local churches

A week after the explosion in Beirut, rubble and debris persist. ACT Alliance photo.

August 18, 2020

By Janice Biehn

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In the wake of the explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon on August 4, the international community is responding with an outpouring of donations. Canada’s Humanitarian Coalition, an organization of 12 relief organizations including the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, is receiving donations that will be matched 1:1 by the Government of Canada until August 24. More than $4 million has been raised by this appeal to date. Through its membership in the Foodgrains Bank, PWRDF donations will also be matched.

After the explosion, the Government of Lebanon declared a two-week state of emergency. The country was already struggling beneath the weight of a financial crisis, a large refugee population and the COVID-19 pandemic. The explosion caused widespread damage more than 20 km away. Hundreds of buildings, including healthcare facilities and major hospitals, were destroyed. Silos storing around 85 percent of the country’s grain buckled in the blast. Official reports estimate that more than 250 people were killed, around 100 are still missing, more than 5,000 people were injured, and more than 300,000 people were left homeless.

PWRDF quickly pledged $25,000 to ACT Alliance, who is working with partners on the ground. The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) will extend support to displaced and homeless people who took refuge in member churches, related schools and convents in Mount Lebanon and Greater Beirut. MECC will provide food, non-food items, hygiene, blankets and clothing for those who were forced to leave their home with nothing. The ACT relief effort also includes the Joint Christian Committee (DSPR). Both organizations are national members of the ACT Lebanon Forum. Each organization will be spending $75,000 US between now and November 16, 2020 to provide shelter, non-food items, food assistance and WASH (water, sanitization and hygiene).

MECC will purchase goods and distribute to member churches for joint implementation through volunteers and MECC staff. While some churches do not have the capacity to respond, they do have the space to receive people.

Many households and communities still suffer due to the endless amount of rubble and dust which needs to be cleaned up in order to provide some level of normalcy. DSPR will support these efforts by having a cleaning campaign run by the volunteers. This intervention will be linked with and coordinated under the broader response of the ACT Lebanon Forum.

As of August 4, Lebanon had reported 5,062 COVID-19 cases, stretching intensive care units to their maximum capacity. Yet the explosion overloaded hospitals even more. Minor to medium injuries were treated on sidewalks and in parking lots, others were referred to health care centres or hospitals in the nearby areas. The spiralling Lebanese economy further compounds the situation for vulnerable people. Women, girls and the elderly are particularly affected. Many seniors are stranded alone in their damaged homes.

On August 10, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) made the following observations:

  • Only 47 per cent of healthcare facilities surveyed can still provide full routine health services;
  • Hot meals, food rations and other food assistance are needed for thousands of affected people;
  • Concerns grow that damage to the Beirut Port will exacerbate food insecurity, which was already growing amid COVID-19 pandemic and the prolonged socio-economic crisis
  • The Water Sector prioritized the WASH response to support vital water facilities, hospitals and PHCs and affected households;
  • Psycho-social support, family reunification and other protection services are essential.

How You Can Help

Please pray for all who have been affected by this disaster, for our partners in the region as they work to save lives and care for the injured, and for those who have died. 

You can also donate to PWRDF’s Beirut explosion emergency response. Gifts made before August 24 will be matched 1:1 by the Government of Canada, through the Humanitarian Coalition.

  • Visit our online donation page at pwrdf.org/give-today and make your gift in Emergency Response, indicating Beirut explosion in the message box.
  • Call 1-866-308-7973 toll-free (leave a message and we will return your call), or 416-822-9083 to speak immediately with someone who can process your donation over the phone.
  • Write Beirut explosion in the memo field of your cheque and mail to PWRDF, 80 Hayden Street, 3rd floor, Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 3G2.
  • Download and share this bulletin message with your community (it is designed to be printed double-sided and cut in two, but the text can also be copied into an e-blast).

The Humanitarian Coalition brings together leading aid organizations to provide Canadians with a simple and effective way to help during international humanitarian disasters. For more information, please visit the Humanitarian Coalition website.