International aid reaches blast-ravaged Beirut
By Isaac J. Martín
Beirut, Aug 15 (efe-epa).- Eleven days after the horrific explosion that left 178 people dead, more than 6,000 injured and nearly 300,000 homeless, Lebanon’s capital was still struggling Saturday to cope with a humanitarian crisis, but groups such as the NGO led by famed Spanish chef Jose Andres have sprung into action.
Andres’ World Central Kitchen (WCK), whose disaster-relief efforts have aided millions of people, had a team on the ground in Beirut within 48 hours of the Aug. 4 blast that leveled the city’s port and is now serving 10,000 meals per day at 10 tent kitchens.
On Saturday, WCK delivered 300 meals to nurses and other health care workers trying to get badly damaged Saint George Hospital back into shape so it can resume treating patients.
“Between the economic crisis, the shortage of wheat reserves, we could have a humanitarian problem, if the international community doesn’t do something about it,” Andres told Efe.
The United Nations is appealing for long-term aid to stop the situation in Lebanon from getting worse.
“International support has been very generous but immediate needs: food, health, shelter, education are still massive, as are longer term needs 4 rehabilitation & recovery. This is the time to help the Lebanese people,” Jan Kubis, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, tweeted Saturday.
The $565 million being sought for Lebanon is meant not only for the initial response to the emergency, but also for the restoration of infrastructure, public services and housing, the UN says.
Lebanon is experiencing its worst economic crisis since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war and the Lebanese pound has losing more than 80 percent of its value against dollar since the start of 2020.
Even before the explosion, the World Bank noted that half the Lebanese population was living below the poverty line.
Now, the food supply is under threat because of the damage to Beirut’s port, which normally handles 85 percent of Lebanon’s total imports.
The explosion destroyed the grain silos at the port that held the bulk of the country’s wheat reserves, but the international community has sent wheat flour and promised additional donations in the coming months.
An Economy Ministry source told Efe that Lebanon needs 35,000 tons of wheat per month.
By Aug. 20, the World Food Program will have delivered 17,500 tons of wheat to Lebanon, the UN agency said.
Andres praised Lebanese citizens for mobilizing so quickly to help people affected by the blast and noted that a number of Beirut restaurants were providing free meals.
One of the volunteers taking part in the Kelna Aayle (We Are All One Family) initiative, Tracy Chartouni, told Efe that she and her colleagues are trying to help residents of the worst affected neighborhoods, Gemmayze and Mar Mikhail.
“There is no one from the government working here, it is the people who help, clean up and provide food,” she said. EFE