Beirut in Trümmern - HEKS leistet Nothilfe
Walid Rashid
After the explosion

Beirut in ruins - HEKS/EPER provides emergency aid

Beirut in ruins - HEKS/EPER provides emergency aid

The explosion of improperly stored ammonium nitrate in the port of Beirut led to a worshipful explosion on 4 August 2020 and devastated a large part of the city of millions. 300,000 people had to leave their destroyed or damaged homes - at a time when the country and its population are already severely weakened by COVID-19, extreme inflation and a political crisis. HEKS provides humanitarian aid for the suffering population.

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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.

HEKS is therefore supporting 1750 families - irrespective of their religion and nationality - and households whose houses and flats are within a radius of two kilometres from the source of the explosion, and which have therefore been hit particularly hard by the disaster. These families receive three monthly payments of 200, 250 and another 250 francs («unconditional cash»). The instalments were paid in September, October and November. This will enable them to provide themselves with essential goods such as food and hygiene products. This immediate measure is being implemented by the long-standing local HEKS partner organisation «Najdeh».

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.