Emergency Aid Beirut
The full extent of the destruction caused by the explosion of 2500 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored improperly in a warehouse at the port of Beirut is becoming clearer with each passing day. The number of deaths has now risen to at least 171 and over 6000 people were injured, some of them seriously. Thousands of houses and apartment buildings were destroyed or badly damaged by the force of the blast. In an instant, over 300,000 people were left homeless. Given the dire situation facing the people of Beirut, HEKS/EPER is doubling its emergency aid for victims of the disaster to 600,000 francs in total.
The blast levelled entire streets in the immediate environs of the site of the explosion in the city’s port area. Countless windowpanes were shattered at a distance of up to 20 kilometres. The shock wave was clearly perceptible on the island of Cyprus, 200 kilometres away. The extensively damaged port area, the access roads and the businesses located there were the beating heart of the economy of Beirut and of Lebanon as a whole. The explosion has brought that beating heart to a virtual standstill for weeks and months.
The destructive explosion in the Beirut harbour is yet another tragic chapter in the crisis-ridden and painful recent history of the Lebanese capital, which once enjoyed the glittering reputation as “the Paris of the Middle East”. The horror of the civil war between 1975 and 1990 was followed by recurring economic crises, domestic political turmoil and social tensions. Most recently, the country has suffered and continues to suffer from the war in Syria, which prompted over a million people from the neighbouring country to flee mainly to Beirut and its environs. The country is currently undergoing the worst economic crisis in its recent history. Inflation and joblessness are on the rise, businesses are empty, and there are constant power cuts. Many people are living in extreme poverty.
Emergency aid is now urgently needed, especially for the roughly 300,000 people made homeless in an instant. HEKS/EPER is therefore supporting some 1750 families and households whose houses and apartments are located within a radius of two kilometres of the site of the explosion and who were therefore hit particularly hard by the disaster. These families are receiving 200 US dollars in unconditional cash, disbursed in two instalments, to enable them buy vital items such as food and toiletries. These immediate measures are being implemented by «Najdeh», the local HEKS/EPER partner organisation of long standing.
HEKS/EPER is also helping with the restoration of badly damaged buildings, including the community centre of the HEKS/EPER partner organisation «Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East» (UAECNE) in Beirut.
Supported by Swiss solidarity, HEKS/EPER has been providing humanitarian aid in Lebanon for many years, including for Syrian refugees and guest families. Besides, as part of church cooperation with Reformed partner churches, HEKS/EPER also supports afternoon schools, basic and continuing education programmes for employees, local church parish initiatives to integrate refugees and recreational activities for children and young people. HEKS/EPER is also active in Syria, providing emergency aid for thousands of internally displaced persons with the help of local partner organisations.
Swiss Solidarity is helping to fund the current emergency aid project as well.