Following an explosion that killed more than 200 people in Beirut, international Catholic groups have responded by providing health services and necessities to the victims.
As victims in Beirut face an urgent need for shelter, medication, hygiene kits and mental-health services, these organizations have dispatched medical teams and relief groups to assist with basic necessities.
The chemical explosion that killed more than 200 people injured thousands of others. Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud estimated that the explosion has caused as much as $10-15 billion in damages and as many as 300,000 people to be temporarily displaced from their homes, according to the BBC. “The resignations of three cabinet ministers and several MPs has failed to quell the fury,” the BBC reported Aug. 10, with citizens taking to the streets to protest corruption and the unsafe storage, since 2014, of the ammonium nitrate that denotated, causing the fatal explosion.
Many buildings and warehouses along the docks were completely destroyed, and the explosion’s shockwave caused damage within a 6-mile radius. The adjacent areas included Beirut’s mostly Christian neighborhoods of Mar Maroun and Achrafieh.
Despite damages to their own facilities, CRS has provided relief to the victims of the explosion. Caritas Lebanon has offered water and hot meals at several locations throughout Beirut. Caritas health-care centers have also opened, and a mobile medical unit and mental health team have been available to the public.
“Our partners started working right away to make sure people were getting help, even though their own buildings were damaged in the explosion,” said CRS spokesperson Megan Gilbert.
“At CRS we’re privileged to contribute to the overwhelmingly generous volunteer response of the Lebanese people, despite all that they have been through over the past year,” she said Aug. 6.
Gilbert added, “Many people in Lebanon were struggling to get by even before this explosion. Now because of the destruction, people are staying in severely damaged homes, or even out in the streets. They are going to need long-term support to get through this.”
International Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has announced an emergency 250,000 euro food aid package for victims.
The ACN grant will focus on poor families most affected by the explosion
Father Samer Nassif, a Lebanese priest, told Aid to the Church in Need that the Christian area of Beirut is “completely devastated,” with at least 10 churches destroyed.
“In one second, more damage was done to the Christian area of Beirut than during the long years of the civil war. We have to rebuild everything again from the ground up.”
ACN also estimated some 300,000 people have been left homeless. Additionally, many offices, schools, hospitals and shops were completely destroyed in the explosion.
The priest stressed that amid the country’s long economic crisis and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Lebanon is ill-equipped to face this new emergency. International aid is urgently needed to meet people’s basic needs, he said.
Lebanon is currently facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with corruption and financial mismanagement leading to an unprecedented devaluation of its currency, hyperinflation, rising unemployment and banking restrictions. The health system is also in crisis. Power outages and street protests had rocked the country a few months before the coronavirus pandemic broke out.
In recent years, Lebanon has been hosting large numbers of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, many of them Christian, as well as Palestinian refugees. According to official data, Lebanon currently hosts almost 2 million refugees, representing about a third of its total population.
Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, Maronite patriarch of Antioch, has called on the international community for aid.
“Beirut is a devastated city. Beirut, the bride of the East and the beacon of the West, is wounded,” he said. “It’s a war scene: There is destruction and desolation in all its streets, its neighborhoods and houses.”
Aid to the Church in Need also called for prayer for all those affected by the explosion and other challenges.
“We pray for the victims and their families; and we pray for Lebanon, so that, with the commitment of all its social, political and religious components, it can face this tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the serious crisis it is going through.”