Lebanon disaster: CARE begins emergency distributions in Beirut

A young woman clears debris outside an apartment block whose windows have all been shattered by the explosion

“The people I meet are devastated, but the solidarity is incredible.”

CARE staff on the ground report that there are thousands of people sleeping on the streets, with search and rescue missions still ongoing. Patricia Khoder, communications consultant for CARE Lebanon, says:

I have been walking around Beirut for the last two days. The damage is terrible, impossible to quantify. In the districts of Gemmayze as far as Mar Mikhael you can only get around on foot, and still with difficulty. It is impossible to imagine what the city will look like after this tragedy.

Damaged buildings and cars in Beirut
Many buildings are so severely damaged that they are uninhabitable

People are still in shock, says Patricia, but are determined to help each other get through the immediate crisis:

People continue to fill the streets. I don’t know how long this will go on for. The people I meet are devastated, but the solidarity is incredible, everyone is coming together to clean up the rubble but also to help the elderly who are amongst the most vulnerable. At the moment, we do not yet know how, but we will recover.

Building damaged by the Beirut explosion
“The streets are impassable: there are abandoned cars in the middle of the road,” says Patricia Khoder

67-year-old Siham Tekian, who lives in Mar Mikhael, told CARE staff:

I was home when the explosion occurred. It’s like life had stopped for five really long seconds, and then I saw blood, nothing but blood, all over my body. I went out into the street. A man whom I don’t know took me in his car to a hospital outside Beirut.

Siham Tekian clearing debris from her damaged grocery store
Siham Tekian clears wreckage outside her damaged grocery store in Beirut

Siham makes her living from a small grocery store which was also badly hit by the blast from the explosion – while her home is too damaged to stay in:

I have nothing left, no furniture, no clothes, no sheets, everything has been torn apart by the glass debris. This is my third night sleeping on the streets.

On the night after the explosion, I came back from the hospital, and since I no longer had a home, took a plastic chair and I dozed off, sitting on the pavement.

Yesterday evening, some young people brought me a sofa and put it on the pavement. It was a broken, dingy sofa, but hey it’s better than nothing. Tonight I’ll be sleeping on the street too.

Through her tears, Siham says: “I want to rest. I’m tired and my heart hurts.” But, she says:

I can’t leave; and then, leave to go where? I’ve lived here for 37 years and my husband was born in this neighborhood... I lived through the Lebanon War [1975-1990], but I have never seen something of this magnitude.

CARE begins emergency food distribution

CARE has been distributing food parcels in neighbourhoods devastated by the massive explosion at the port of Beirut. As a first step, 1,100 food parcels are being distributed, in cooperation with local civil society organisations. This includes house-to-house distributions. We aim to provide food parcels and hot meals to an initial target of 20,000 people.

Men unloading CARE package boxes from lorry in Beirut
Staff unloading CARE packages containing food supplies from a lorry
CARE emergency distribution in street in Beirut
An emergency distribution point set up in a street in Beirut

CARE is also planning a multi-purpose cash response to meet urgent shelter needs, as well as providing hygiene and dignity kits and psychosocial support as people recover from this incredibly traumatic event. Bujar Hoxha, CARE Lebanon Country Director, says:

We are also trying out something new with this distribution. We are planning to have social workers skilled in providing psychosocial support attend and try and identify and offer assistance to some of those most traumatised by the explosion and recent events.

Mental health is still quite a sensitive subject in Lebanese society, but there is no doubt that thousands of people will be struggling with trauma and stress from this tragedy, and as a result of the difficult months and years we face in rebuilding.

The explosion has exacerbated what was already a serious humanitarian situation, including an increasing number of COVID-19 cases. We are also planning livelihoods and small business support in response to the worsening economic crisis.

Please donate now to help families devastated by the Beirut explosion:

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.