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UN High Commissioner for Refugees affirms immediate support to 100,000 individuals affected by devastating Beirut blast and additional funding for COVID-19 response

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UN High Commissioner for Refugees affirms immediate support to 100,000 individuals affected by devastating Beirut blast and additional funding for COVID-19 response

21 August 2020
Lebanon. Filippo Grandi visits in aftermath of beirut port explosion
UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi speaks with Syrian refugee Makhoul Al Hamad, 43, and his daughter Sana, 14, at their home, in the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, August 19, 2020.

BEIRUT, Lebanon - The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, today concluded a visit to Lebanon during which he affirmed UNHCR’s immediate support to over 100,000 people who were severely affected by the blast that devastated the capital, Beirut, on 4 August.

This support aims to provide emergency housing repairs and trauma counselling to Lebanese, refugees and other affected populations.

During his visit, Grandi observed the devastating impact of the blast, and listened to the plight of Lebanese and refugee families. From Beirut, he called on the international community to continue their generous support and stand by the people of Lebanon at this trying time.

“The situation is very difficult. Lebanon is enduring multiple challenges - the swirling economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of the Syrian conflict - and now, this horrible explosion. All of us have a role to play in the response – we cannot let people sleep in the open, without a roof and privacy, exposed to food insecurity, lack of water and medicine.”

He added: “Let us not forget that Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world. The people of Lebanon have sheltered Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian refugees for decades. It is not the time for the international community to leave Lebanon alone in its own hour of need. I am here to say to all affected communities – Lebanese, refugees, and many others - that we will do everything we can to help them overcome this hardship.”

UNHCR is mobilizing a total of US$35 million for its emergency response to the hardest-hit and most vulnerable households in Beirut. This package includes US$32.6 million for shelter interventions and US$2.4 million for protection activities for the next three months.

The High Commissioner discussed the situation with the President of the Republic, the caretaker Prime Minister, and several local and central officials.

Grandi also met with the Lebanese Red Cross (LRC) to reaffirm to the two organizations’ partnership, notably on the emergency shelter response. UNHCR is targeting 100,000 most severely affected individuals and has immediately dispatched its existing in-country stockpile of emergency shelter kits to distribute both directly and through partners including Medair, ACTED, Intersos, Save the Children, Solidarités International, Concern, PU-Ami, and Leb Relief.

During a visit of the devasted neighbourhoods in the capital, Grandi witnessed the emergency response delivered by UNHCR and partners. Over 3,140 shelter kits have already been distributed to the worst-affected households, benefiting over 10,000 people so far.

“It was shocking to see first-hand the scale of the destruction, but it is the human cost of this disaster that is truly heartbreaking,” Grandi said. “The families I met have suffered terrible physical and psychological injuries, but despite everything they remain determined to rebuild their homes and their lives.”

UNHCR and partners are also providing legal aid to recover lost documents and above all, psychological first aid and psychosocial support to help people heal from the trauma caused by the blast.

During his visit, the High Commissioner also assessed UNHCR’s support to the national COVID-19 response in Lebanon. He visited Tripoli Governmental Hospital where UNHCR funded a 43-bed COVID-19 expansion. Grandi also visited an isolation center supported by UNHCR in Akkar, northern Lebanon, which was fully equipped to receive individuals from all nationalities who need to self-isolate and do not have the capacity to do so at home.

UNHCR’s COVID-19 support to hospitals will cover 800 additional beds and 100 additional ICU beds in total, including ventilators and other advanced equipment, as well as medicine stocks. Since February, UNHCR teams deployed all efforts to build dedicated hospital expansion facilities or rehabilitate existing unused sections and refurbish them with new medical equipment. The latter will remain the property of the hospitals after the pandemic, with the aim to cure many more patients long after COVID-19.

In light of the rapid spread of the virus in recent weeks, UNHCR is currently fast-tracking the deployment of ventilators and other ICU equipment to hospitals across the country to help them face the increase in patient admissions.

During his visit, Grandi decided to allocate an additional US$3million to reinforce UNHCR’s COVID-19 response, in addition to the previously allocated US$40 million.

Throughout the visit, the High Commissioner met with refugee families, and heard accounts of growing hardship and challenges. In recent months and as a result of the deepening economic and financial crisis that was exacerbated by COVID-19, the proportion of refugees living under the extreme poverty line jumped from 55 per cent to over 75 per cent today.

“Refugee and Lebanese communities are pushed further down into poverty and vulnerability as a result of the economic crisis, the consequences of the pandemic and now the tragic explosion in Beirut, and need our urgent help today”, said Grandi. “We are working with humanitarian partners and the donor community to ensure that all people in Lebanon are not forgotten – they need our help now more than ever before.”

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