The explosion that struck the city of Beirut on Aug. 4 left thousands of people in Lebanon vulnerable — but research shows that women are the ones bearing the brunt of the fallout of this devastating event.
According to a new study released on Wednesday and carried out by ABAAD, CARE International, ESCWA, UNFPA, and UN Women, women in female-headed and elderly households in Lebanon are left increasingly vulnerable by the explosion.
The study, entitled “Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA) of the August Beirut Port Explosion: An Intersectional Examination,” analyzed data collected from 49 responders and affected members of the community, along with surveys conducted by the Red Cross in more than 17,000 households.
It revealed that women in Lebanon were experiencing higher risks of gender-based violence while dealing with limited access to health services, identity and job loss, and growing feelings of frustration and anxiety. What’s more, many women reported needing first aid and humanitarian assistance but refrained from seeking it out of fears of harassment, abuse, and discrimination.
These findings lay bare the poverty and steep inequality that the COVID-19 pandemic had already entrenched before the explosion, CARE International in Lebanon Country Country Director Bujar Hoxha noted in the release.
“People in Beirut have suffered enormous losses due to the recent Beirut port explosion,” Hoxha said. “This crisis has come on top of an existing economic crisis, where over half a million jobs were lost, and the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Hoxha added that women coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, including women living with disabilities, refugees, migrant workers, and gender minorities, were particularly at risk of experiencing gender-based and sexual violence.
“In the absence of a strong government response, they are highly dependent on aid and in need of protection and support. It is of utmost importance that aid organizations continue to reach vulnerable people during these challenging times.”
On the ground, some organizations, such as UN Women, have been providing some much-needed assistance to help mitigate the impact of the crisis on women.
CARE International has also been doing its part by helping Lebanese people and Syrian refugees get access to food and hygiene products, clean water, and shelter. Meanwhile, economic development programs have been launched to help alleviate the impact suffered by many who have lost their job since the explosion occurred, the release noted.
But while these initiatives are a start, significant hurdles remain to ensure everyone gets the care they need. Many women still have difficulty getting access to on-site health services, and most analyses conducted in the aftermath of the explosion remain gender-blind.
The study stronlgy encourages health care services to be provided for free and at home to help address these challenges. It also calls on all parties to seek gender-based training in order to better understand and tackle the issues faced by women in Lebanon.