The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) has announced a £20 million aid package for Lebanon after a massive explosion in the capital of Beirut killed at least 220 people on Aug. 4.
The funding will help feed Lebanon’s most vulnerable people in an effort to prevent an emerging food crisis. It is in addition to an initial £5 million that was made available for the immediate emergency response in the days after the explosion, including £3 million to the British Red Cross, according to a statement from DfID.
The department also flew a specialist team of medics to Lebanon to assess the health needs in the city, as there has been damage to local hospitals.
Farmers were already struggling in the country due to the high cost of crops to plant, the New Humanitarian reports, creating concern about low harvests in the months to come.
But the blast has now destroyed 15,000 metric tonnes of wheat that was being stored nearby, the report says, as well the main area for offloading imported grain into the country at Beirut’s port. That means that imports will have to dock elsewhere in the country, contributing to rising costs.
A virtual pledging summit was held by world leaders, including the UK, on Sunday to raise funds for the nation, which had been dealing with a severe economic crisis that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, before it was hit by the devastating blast.
The summit, convened by French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, raised £227 million in total. However, authorities estimate that there is up to £11.5 billion worth of damage.
DfID is responsible for spending the bulk of the UK’s international aid budget — the only part of the national budget dedicated to tackling extreme poverty that leaves 736 million people living on less than $1.90 per day.
It also helps support countries rocked by national disasters around the world. However, in September, DfID is set to merge with the UK Foreign Office — a move that experts say could make aid spending less transparent, less accountable, and less effective.
The explosion in Beirut was reportedly caused by the denotation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate — a material that is used for explosives — which had been stored unsafely at the city’s port for years. It’s estimated more than 6,000 people were injured by the blast and 250,000 people have been made homeless as it ripped through the city.
Furious Beirut citizens have taken to streets since the deadly event to protest the situation, blaming political corruption and incompetence for the lack of regulation over the dangerous material being kept at the port.
In response, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced on Monday that he and his entire cabinet would resign to make way for a new government, but will stay on as a caretaker government until a new one is formed.
Lebanon hosts more refugees per capita than any other country in the world, with over 1 million people from neighbouring Syria finding safety there.
"The devastation we have seen in Lebanon this week has left people without homes, medical care, and wondering how long it will be until the country’s food supplies run out," the UK’s International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said in a press release.
The support will help the country’s most vulnerable people as they are threatened by economic uncertainty and the social consequences of the explosion, the statement from DfiD continued. It will go "directly to those families most at risk to cover essential survival needs, including access to food and medicine," it added.
Since the start of the war in Syria in 2011, the UK has supported Syrian refugees in Lebanon too, building water and sanitation facilities for over 1.1 million refugees, providing education for 300,000 children, and helping create 1,400 new jobs for Syrian and Lebanese communities, the department says.
You can learn more, take action, and donate to help the people of Beirut here.