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OCHA’s head of operations details humanitarian response in Lebanon

04 Sep 2020

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Reena Ghelani, OCHA’s Director of Operations and Advocacy, recently visited Beirut to show solidarity with the people of Lebanon and learn first-hand about the needs of those affected by the blasts. Credit: OCHA

As the UN and partners continue to assess humanitarian needs and coordinate response efforts in Beirut following the blasts that devastated the capital city on 4 August, it is clear that there have been horrific impacts on lives and livelihoods, as well as on basic living conditions and coping mechanisms. The blast came as Lebanon was already strained by socioeconomic pressures, and since the explosions, the country has seen an increase in COVID-19 transmissions, further straining its health system.

Reena Ghelani, OCHA’s Director of Operations and Advocacy, recently visited Beirut to show solidarity with the people of Lebanon and learn first-hand about the needs of those affected by the blasts. Acknowledging the response efforts of the UN system, she noted the resilience of the Lebanese people in stepping in to provide support to one another.

“Today what we have been doing is visiting one of the major public health hospitals in Beirut. They have been first responders after the explosions here, and it is incredible to see how the Lebanese themselves have come in first to support each other,” Ms. Ghelani said.

Among the assistance being provided by the UN and humanitarian partners is shelter, meals, water, hygiene kits for women and girls, and nutrition services. From 19 to 21 August, more than 60,000 hot meals and food kits and 8,500 gallons of water were provided, as well as 16,500 hygiene/dignity kits for women and girls, and 4,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women were reached with nutrition. Since the explosions, 4,163 households have been reached with shelter assistance.

“The supplies provided were first coming from the Lebanese diaspora, coming from local communities here, and they have had to really be agile and, while dealing with the COVID crisis, quickly adapt to be able to continue to take in patients with COVID while dealing with the trauma care and the psychological trauma,” Ms. Ghelani said.

Speaking outside of a hospital in Beirut, she highlighted that the facility has been focusing on the psychological needs of people.

“They have focused here at this hospital very much on the psychological aspect, which is really under-appreciated in this crisis,” she said.

Credit: OCHA

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has repeatedly called for “robust international support for all people in need in Lebanon, especially women and girls who are most vulnerable in times of crisis”.

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, has echoed those sentiments, noting in a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Lebanon that the humanitarian response has been “swift and wide-ranging,” and stressing that as the Lebanese people “steel themselves for a long and difficult journey, we must remain by their side, offering our resources and our influence, as well as our hearts”.

Efforts are under way to support the national response to the explosions. Humanitarian organizations continue to assess immediate humanitarian needs across the affected areas.

“The doctors in the medical care have emphasized that while the emergency response has been generous, and many countries have also come forward and supported, what they are going to really need is to make this sustainable, and make sure that in the medium term, the health-care system can continue to support not only the victims of the blast, but all of the longer-term impacts from this crisis,” Ms. Ghelani emphasized.