Wed, 20 Jan 2021

Magnitude of Beirut Blast Demands Costly Response

Voice of America
13 Aug 2020, 00:05 GMT+10

GENEVA - The United Nations is preparing an appeal to cover the enormous emergency and acute humanitarian needs of hundreds of thousands of survivors of last week's devastating explosion in the center of Lebanon's capital Beirut. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The magnitude and destructive impact of the blast is only now becoming clear. Latest reports put the number of killed at around 160, with 60 people missing and more than 5,000 injured.

An estimated 300,000 people are homeless. And, the explosion, caused by 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate knocked out Lebanon's principle port, which imports nearly 85 percent of the country's food.

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A rapid U.N. assessment of 55 primary health care centers finds 37 percent have sustained moderate to serious damage and less than half can still provide full routine health care.

The size of the disaster has created a humanitarian crisis. Getting to grips with the immediate and long-term needs is likely to run into the billions of dollars. Spokesman for the Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke, says UN agencies are in the process of estimating the costs.

"We should expect a flash appeal in the coming days for the humanitarian response in Beirut. And, that of course, will come with a price tag...It will be a lot of money and it will be even more in the medium and longer term," Laerke said.

A number of U.N. agencies including the World Food Program, UN children's fund and World Health Organization have issued preliminary appeals running into hundreds of millions of dollars.

US Delivering Critical Emergency Aid to Lebanon UN, French, Russian rescue workers searched the port area of Beirut for survivors from the blast, French and Russian rescue teams with dogs also searched the area on Friday.

WHO spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic says his agency urgently needs $76 million as a stop gap measure to provide essential medical supplies and to restore damaged health facilities.

"As always, the immediate response is addressing trauma and emergency medical needs, but it is also clear that major humanitarian crises also involving hundreds of thousands of people who are displaced from their homes and urgent support for shelter and food," Jasarevic said. "The displacement of so many people also risks accelerating the spread of COVID-19 and the outbreak of other diseases including other respiratory and water borne diseases."

WHO reports 6,812 cases of coronavirus, including 80 deaths in Lebanon. Jasarevic says the likelihood of spread of the disease is great as physical distancing, hand-washing and other protective measures are difficult to enforce in the context of the current chaotic situation.

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