Two years since one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history ripped through Beirut, the city and the people living in it are still struggling to recover from the impact of the devastating blast, even more now with a soaring cost of food as a result of economic decline. The World Bank said that Lebanon is one of the countries worst hit by the food inflation in the world, in part because of the impact of the blast.
While around 40,000 buildings were damaged – of which 3,000 severely – in the massive explosion, no accurate official data exists to track progress of the reconstruction. Although improvements have been made to many homes and businesses, much more is still needed as the challenges faced by the country only continue to escalate. As a stark reminder of the port blast, sections of the grain silos at the port – ground zero of the explosion-collapsed last weekend, sending waves of dust throughout the city.
Bojan Kolundzija, Country Director, Oxfam in Lebanon said: “Even before the blast, Lebanon was already in the prolonged predicament further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. In its aftermath, Lebanon is again struggling through crisis upon crisis as the shock waves from the conflict in Ukraine further exacerbate already skyrocketing commodity prices. Two years since the explosion, those who were already the most vulnerable are still struggling to meet their basic needs.”
A good illustration of how the blast amplified the plight of the country is the fact that 46 per cent of Lebanese and half the refugee population are assessed to be without enough food. Urban communities are still buckling under the weight of the crisis. In one Beirut neighborhood where Oxfam works, 70 per cent of households recently assessed were spending close to the average monthly minimum wage a month on food (where the monthly minimum wage is around 675,000 LBP/month), while 40 per cent could no longer afford basic health care. Over half of households, reached either with cash assistance or livelihoods support, had been forced to sell some of their possessions to cover rent, food, and education costs.
Immediately after the blast and through 2021, Oxfam partnered with 11 local organizations to deliver life-saving food, cash, house rehabilitation, medicine, psycho-social support, and legal assistance to almost 22,000 people and 117 small businesses. Despite wide ranging and sustained assistance to households and individuals, including support to the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and migrant workers, there are mounting needs among people and businesses affected by the blast.