What is Happening in Lebanon?

The massive explosion that rocked the port of Beirut on August 4th, is the latest disaster to strike the country. A dire economic crisis, deepened by COVID-19, has already pushed families to the edge, with many unable to afford food, hygiene, water and fuel.

Now the consequences of the Beirut explosion could push this fragile country over the edge and into a humanitarian nightmare.

Economic Collapse

Late in 2019, Lebanon’s economic system began to implode. Years of financial mismanagement, led to the country’s currency, the lira, entering freefall.

woman sits in her destroyed apartment
A woman sits amidst the rubble in her damaged house in the Lebanese capital Beirut, two days after a massive explosion shook the Lebanese capital.

In a short space of weeks, the lira lost 90% of its value wiping out people’s savings and making salaries worthless. With strict limits on the number of dollars that can be withdrawn from banks and a widespread refusal to accept credit cards, the buying power of the Lebanese population has disappeared.

With 80% of its daily goods, being imported, this has made essential supplies of food, water, and medicine difficult to get.

48% of the Lebanese people lived below the poverty line before this financial shock. Now food queues are an everyday sight. A barter style economy has developed, as desperate families trade for food and supplies.

COVID-19 Pandemic

The suffering of the Lebanese people was further deepened by the arrival of COVID-19. Underfunded and already nearing capacity, the Lebanese health system was ill prepared for COVID-19.

unicef work sorts PPE in Beirut warehouse
A UNICEF warehouse in Beirut, Lebanon, a worker sorts personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies to be distributed to healthcare frontline workers and population at risk in the country. © UNI317994/Choufany

The government has imposed a severe lock down on the country, but this has done little to slow the spread of the disease.  With COVID-19 cases rising and resources becoming increasingly limited – 95% of all Lebanon’s medicines are imported – there is a very real risk that the health system could collapse.  This will only be further worsened by the explosion on the 4th of August.

Protests and Political Unrest

Given the economic situation and with widespread anger at the collapse of the Lebanese state, Lebanon has seen huge protests. Mass layoffs, food shortages and an employment rate of over 30%, have left people angry, disillusioned, and demanding change.

Rallies and protests continue, but little is changing beyond the situation worsening on a daily basis.

Electricity Outages

Lebanon has not had a reliable power system since 1990. But, since June the situation has become much worse. With inflation at 90%, the cost of running local generators has become increasingly expensive.  Residents of Beirut, have had to endure nearly 20 hours of power cuts per week as a result.

With the country dependent on small local generators to supplement the state power grid, fewer and fewer hours of electricity are available to the public.

Faced with shortages, hospitals and clinics are reducing their power usage, but without intervention, serious medical procedures may be delayed or cancelled due to a lack of power.

Beirut Explosion

All of this, is just the backdrop to the terrible explosion that struck Beirut on Tuesday the 4th of August. With over 100 people dead, 4,000 injured and half of all buildings in the city damaged, the scale of the disaster is immense.

father holding injured girl beirut
Wounded people are treated at a hospital following an explosion near the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

It will also add to the burdens Lebanon already faces. 300,000 people have been left homeless. The port through which 80% of all food comes into Lebanon has been closed. And the already overburdened health system is being overwhelmed by the wounded.

In response UNICEF teams are on the ground, supplying clean water, medicine and support for children traumatized by the events of the last few days. But the needs in Lebanon are huge, and children need your help.

Please donate now to help children in Lebanon, now and in the future.