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On 4 August, shortly before 6 p.m. local time, a massive explosion shook the port of Beirut. More than 200 people lost their lives, and several thousand have been injured. The explosion left a trail of destruction in its wake. The blastwave destroyed the buildings in a one-kilometre radius or damaged them severely. Within several square kilometres, windows were broken and doors ripped from their frames. 300'000 people lost their homes, countless livelihoods were at stake.
Caritas Switzerland, active in Lebanon since 2012 as part of its support for the victims of the Syria crisis, is cooperating with its long-term partner organisation Caritas Lebanon to support people in their desperate situation. Immediately after the blast, Caritas Lebanon has provided medical care for injured people, gave them medicinies, handed out food parcels as well as hot meals. Caritas teams helped with initial clearing up work and provided psychological assistance.
Shelter and psychological support for families in need
In September 2020, Caritas Switzerland and Caritas Lebanon have together started an emergency relief project and continue to support people until today, one year after the blast. Many of the poorer people still need assistance with repair work, while the socio-economic situation in the country is rapidly deteriorating. Particularly vulnerable families receive cash assistance to cover their daily expenses and to repair damage to their flats and houses themselves. Furthermore, we provide psychological help for adults and support children with a playful and child-friendly psychosocial care programme to help them come to terms with what they have experienced. This project is supported by Swiss Solidarity.
Learning opportunities for children
The explosion destroyed or damaged 160 schools. At the same time, regular school classes cannot be held due to the corona pandemic. In cooperation with the SDC, Caritas Switzerland is helping to ensure that children can continue to study. While the SDC has rebuilt schools, we are facilitating distance learning in 7 schools with local partner organisations Ana Aqra, Caritas Lebanon and Seenaryo, so children can be taught despite damaged schools and the corona pandemic. With a virtual learning support programme, teacher training and psychosocial support, we are improving access to quality education and psychological assistance for particularly vulnerable children, who urgently need to catch up on schoolwork and whose mental health is endangered.
Crisis upon crisis for the people of Lebanon
Help is all the more urgent in that the energy and resources of the poorest people in Lebanon, in particular, have long been exhausted. The structurally weak country, which has accepted more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees since the start of the Syrian war, is on the brink of bankruptcy. The economy and infrastructure of the small country are hopelessly overstretched, the local currency is rapidly losing value. Internal tensions between refugees and the host community are rising. An ever-growing number of people are losing their jobs and are sliding into poverty.