Beirut Blasts: The Long Road to Recovery

Nearly three months on from the devastating explosions that shook the city, Beirut’s wounds remain far from healed. Life changed irreversibly for the people of Lebanon when two huge blasts ripped through the Capital’s port area on 4 August, leaving some 203 people dead, 6,500 injured and an estimated 200,000 with damaged houses. As the extent of the damage to homes and infrastructure becomes clear, so too the scale of the recovery effort grows to unforeseen proportions. Find out more about our response to the crisis as internal suffering begins to override physical scars…

Fragile foundations
Lebanon was in the midst of an acute economic crisis when the tragedy occurred. The explosion caused by the accidental detonation of nearly 3,000 tones of ammonium nitrate has left a huge crack in the country’s already weak infrastructure. As the extent of the damage is revealed, the scale of the recovery job continues to expand. Some 44,000 homes have minor damage to windows and doors while 13,000 more have additional but still moderate damage. On top of this, 13,000 apartments across 1,600 buildings have suffered structural damage – in many cases, so severe, that there is no foundation to work from. Even those who were able to return to their apartments weren’t safe. In the days that followed, many were visited by municipality workers, who, after assessing the building, would often ask families to evacuate – the house could collapse at any moment.

Invisible wounds
As the weeks have passed, initial shock and widespread action has been replaced by deep psychological trauma. Residents have experienced post-traumatic stress – marked by flashbacks, fear and fatigue – with psychosocial support services overwhelmed. The aftershocks of the deadly blasts are particularly hard for children to process, who can develop long-term problems if their trauma is left un-treated. “No one has been spared the effects of this disaster”, says Najla Chahda, Country Director for our programme in Lebanon. “I’ve seen full grown men break down in tears. I’ve watched children be pulled from the rubble.” Even those who are showing signs of recovery can’t escape the physical wreckage that greets them every day. Though the clean-up effort – by locals as well as the international community – has been immense, miles of rubble and debris offer a merciless reminder of how fast lives can be ripped apart.

Serving the most vulnerable
Dorcas staff and volunteers have witnessed this suffering first-hand – some of whom are battling their own trauma. All too aware of the limited resources and support granted to the most vulnerable in Lebanon, the team have been quick to launch a multifaceted response operation. The Christian Emergency Relief Cluster sees six organisations (Dorcas, EO-Metterdaad, Red een Kind, Tear, Woord en Daad and ZOA) come together to address the immediate needs of the most affected households.

“Our response gives specific attention to the elderly and people with disabilities from both the host and refugee population”, says Siebrand Wierda, Manager of Communities and Resources at the Dorcas International Office. “These are the people that we simply can’t afford to leave behind.” What kind of support is offered? “Together, we are providing emergency food and hygiene kits (including COVID-19 preventive items) as well as beginning reconstruction efforts to homes”, he explains.

“Psychosocial support is also paramount. Our team of trained psychologists are working hard to deliver emergency mental health services wherever they are needed. We will continue to train more staff as the need expands.”

26 October 2020

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