Following the tragic explosion in Beirut last week, the city and its residents have been facing difficulties beyond the initial destruction and human casualties.
One of the key concerns is the city’s food supply. Lebanon imports nearly 85% of its food, with much of it coming through Beirut’s now devastated port. The port acted as the main entry point for ships that brought in food for the country's 6 million people, and was also the location of the government's only large grain silo, which has also been destroyed, according to Reuters.
But international fundraising and on-the-ground efforts are providing meals for Lebanese people and helping avoid the possibility of a food shortage. Global Citizen has joined the humanitarian effort by launching the "Global Aid for Lebanon" campaign to raise funds for those impacted by the Beirut explosion.
David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), has been in Beirut assessing damage and recovery prospects. He expressed his concern in a virtual briefing on Monday that the country could run out of bread in two and a half weeks now that grain stocks are depleted.
“Immediately what we were really worried about was the bread supply and also the port,” Shada Moghraby, WFP communications officer, told Global Citizen. “It was clear from when the executive director went to Lebanon that one of the first things we wanted to address is how can we get parts of the port operational so that we can bring the necessary supplies into the country.”
Beasley said they have identified an area of the port that could begin operating later this month, and are working with the Lebanese army to clear the area for temporary use. WFP will also be airlifting equipment throughout the week to rebuild the port to the point where it can begin receiving imports again.
As for incoming food supplies, a ship carrying grain docked at the reduced port on Monday, and another is expected to arrive Thursday. WFP is also bringing into Lebanon 17,500 metric tons of wheat flour and a three-month supply of wheat to replenish the country’s food reserves that were damaged in the explosion, according to Moghraby.
“That’s to put bread on the table of all the people of Lebanon, and that will give us a bread supply for 20 days,” Beasley said in the briefing. “While we’re doing that, we’ve got a 30-day supply of about 30,000 metric tons of wheat that we’re bringing in, and then another 100,000 metric tons over the next 60 days after that.”
From food parcels to setting up logistics to make sure food keeps coming in, here are all the ways WFP is helping in #Lebanon. 👇— World Food Programme (@WFP) August 12, 2020
Help @WFPLebanon's work on the ground: https://t.co/BLZSG7tHD1pic.twitter.com/q49PcdfxDQ
The international response to the situation in Beirut has been overwhelming, Moghraby said. Since the beginning of its relief efforts, WFP has distributed 150,000 food baskets to families impacted by the economic crisis as a part of the immediate response. Besides WFP, other organizations have also been helping on the ground by delivering meals.
Local restaurants like Nabil Khoury’s vegetarian delicatessen Dry & Raw are distributing packaged meals to those in need, producing nearly 1,000 meals per day.
World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit founded by celebrity chef and humanitarian José Andrés, has mobilized a relief team in Lebanon and cooked 10,000 meals for local hospitals, seniors sheltering in place, first responders, and others in need in the capital city.
WCK's Relief Team supported by local chefs we’ve hired & volunteers is cooking thousands of fresh meals from our main kitchen at Amar Seaside. On the menu: sandwich djej made with roasted chicken & garlic spread and a dish of minced beef & shredded chicken w/ rice #ChefsForBeirutpic.twitter.com/IrZStcmsXG— World Central Kitchen (@WCKitchen) August 13, 2020
Countries have also stepped up to contribute funds for medical supplies and food aid. The US committed more than $15 million in humanitarian aid to Lebanon, which includes funding for the food provisions of 50,000 people for three months. The UK announced a £20 million aid package (about $26 million) to help feed people in Lebanon through the WFP. France will also be sending 663 tons of food aid to the country.
“What gives us a bit of hope is the solidarity shown to Lebanon,” Moghraby said. “This blast was shocking to everyone, and it has really been inspiring to see the overwhelming response shown to the Lebanese people. Hopefully we’re going to start thinking not just about the impact of the blast, but also the issues that WFP has been sounding the alarm bell on for quite some time.”
Prior to the explosion that has killed more than 200 and injured thousands, Lebanon was already on the brink of an economic collapse. The explosion on Aug. 4 came at a time when the country was facing its worst financial crisis in decades, during which 75% of its population struggled to get food on the table.
Global hunger has been increasing in recent years due to factors such as climate change and rising inequality, with a total of 2 billion people experiencing food insecurity in 2019. The impact of COVID-19 could cause an additional 270 million people to need food aid.