Beirut: Surviving in the aftermath of the explosion
“We are walking on broken glass that has been left all over the city, reminding us every day of this horrible tragedy.”
One month after the blast that devastated the port of Beirut, people in the city are still trying to cope with the shock and trauma, which has been aggravated by the impacts of the economic and COVID-19 crises. Patricia Khoder, spokesperson for CARE Lebanon, says:
Hundreds of those who have been heavily injured during the blast remain in hospitals; some of them fighting for their lives. Many more families, who have been affected by the economic breakdown, have no choice but to regularly skip meals in order to allow their children to eat.
“But we will stay standing and because of that, Lebanese people need all of our support,” she says.
Amira (pictured above, with her family) has three children aged 12 to 18. Her husband worked at the Port of Beirut. Her home was on the top floor of a building in the Mar Mikhael neighborhood, one of the areas most affected by the explosion. She told us:
Look where we are today. I have been living with all my family in a small room at my brother-in-law’s place since the day of the explosion. We go there every night to sleep, because our apartment has no roof: tiles and beams were blown out by the explosion. But at some point, we'll have to go back home – if only someone could help us rebuild. We survived thanks to food parcels and hot meals distributed by NGOs.
“I never thought we would get to this, but I come every day with my kids at noon to receive hot meals,” she says with tears in her eyes.
Rita (pictured above), 26 years old, told us:
The owner of the apartment will probably take advantage of the explosion and the partial destruction of the house to kick us out. We are old tenants (benefiting from a law that protects them). But for the time being, we have rebuilt as much as possible; our apartment was partially destroyed.
“My father, a day labourer, works sometimes. We often have to go to my grandparents to eat something,” she says as she looks at the ground, as if to give herself courage.
Rahil (pictured above) is from Ethiopia. A migrant worker, Rahil came to Lebanon four years ago and has lived in Ashrafieh, an area in East Beirut that was affected by the explosion. She does housework and is paid 10,000 Lebanese liras per hour (equivalent to 7 US dollars before the fall in value of the Lebanese lira; now, it is equivalent to around 1.25 US dollars). She told us:
Even though the house I live in was not affected by the blast, I have to leave it in the days to come because the owner wants to rent it out to a friend who lost his apartment in the explosion. I have to look for a house in the neighborhood because this is where my clients are, even though half of them left after the explosion.
“I don't know how to survive anymore,” she says.
As of 4 September, CARE Lebanon has reached 9,820 individuals with food parcels and hot meals, and 225 individuals with dignity kits and PPE kits to populations affected by the blast. CARE is planning to reach 30,000 people during the first two phases of the Beirut explosion response (Year 1), and to increase to 100,000 persons over a 3-year period. CARE Lebanon was already responding to COVID-19 before the blast and will continue with provision of essential materials (including disinfection kits, food parcels) and actions to raise awareness among the population.
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