One month since the massive blast in Beirut, tens of thousands of vulnerable people are unable to rebuild their homes, with a single front door costing two months’ worth of a minimum-wage salary, warned Oxfam today.
Longstanding inequality, massive inflation and COVID-19 have compounded this humanitarian disaster for tens of thousands, making it almost impossible for them to recover.
“Huge inflation has meant the cost of basic materials needed to rebuild homes and businesses is out of reach for thousands of people who were struggling to get by even before the blast.
While the minimum wage is just under $450 [USD] a month, the cost of replacing one window is now nearly $500 and a door up to $1000 [USD]. These families need urgent assistance to recover from this disaster and rebuild their lives,” said Oxfam’s Policy Lead in Lebanon, Bachir Ayoub.
The blast came at time when thousands of people where already on the brink. An estimated 50 per cent of the population was living under the poverty line. The Lira’s value had dropped 80 per cent since October, migrant workers were being abandoned and forced out on the streets, cash was almost impossible to access, and restrictive measures to contain the pandemic prevented casual workers from getting to their jobs.
”Following the blast, an estimated additional 70,000 workers are now jobless. Half of all wholesale, retail and hospitality establishments near the blast site have been destroyed. In the most affected areas, the majority of people are low and middle income workers who earn the minimum wage or less. Most of them have lost their jobs in the port or the businesses in the devastated areas. Many people are unable to put food on the table, let alone repair their houses,” added Ayoub.
As coronavirus cases surge, the cost of a single test is $100 (USD) and well out of reach for most people.
Oxfam is working with Lebanese organizations to ensure that Beirut’s most marginalized people are not left behind and instead have the support they need to recover from the blast.
Oxfam’s joint response with partners will focus on supporting local leadership, and will prioritize reaching people with disabilities, the elderly, women and girls who are now at greater risk of violence because of unsafe houses, migrant workers, refugees and the LGBTQ+ community.
Oxfam’s partner-led response is providing over 9,000 people with support ranging from emergency cash and food, medical services, mental health support, legal assistance and help to repair and rebuild homes and businesses.
But there is still too much that needs to be done for Beirut to begin to recover. Celine El Kik, a social worker from Oxfam partner KAFA says the mental scars of the blast will linger long after the physical damage has been repaired.
“The port explosion affected all of us, but especially women who were already vulnerable. We’re providing social and legal support, as well as cash assistance for people who lost their jobs or their houses,” she said.
Oxfam calls for fair and just distribution of aid to provide critical support to these vulnerable communities and people who will be unable to cope and rebuild their lives without targeted and transparent aid.
“We are worried that the growing inequality and suffering we were already seeing in some of Lebanon’s most vulnerable communities – like refugees and migrant workers, the elderly and LGBTQ+ community – will only get worse, and they will fall even farther behind,” added Ayoub.
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Notes to editors:
- The Humanitarian Coalition (of which Oxfam is a member) ran a fundraising appeal with the support of the Canadian government, that pledged to match donations by individual Canadians up to a total of $8 million dollars.
- As of August 24th, the total funds available for humanitarian assistance from Canada, including the government’s contribution, was $ 17.9 million.
- The Minimum wage in Lebanon is set by the Government at 675,000 LBP which was equivalent to $450 (USD) this time last year.
- One-meter square of average quality (6mm) glass cost $16 (USD) before the explosion. After August 4, and with the increasing prices in the market, the Ministry of Economy specified the prices of one-meter square of glass with an aluminium frame at $500.
- The average market price of a door with quality locks is currently $700 to $1000 (USD)
- To respond to the impact of the blast Oxfam is working with 11 partners to deliver emergency support including distribution of food parcels and the provision of emergency and temporary cash assistance, household rehabilitation, legal assistance and consultation, psycho-social support and medication. The services are provided to families and individuals in the affected areas including women, girls, LGBTQ+ community members, people with disabilities and migrant workers.
- Our partners under the Beirut Response are Lebanese Centre for Human Rights (CLDH), KAFA, Anti-Racism Movement (ARM), Basmeh and Zeitooneh (B&Z), Lebanese Physically Handicapped Union (LPHU), Lebanese observatory for workers and employees rights (LOWER), HELEM, Legal Agenda (LA), Mada Association, Arc En Ciel and People’s Solidarity, hosted by a partner organization called Social Media Exchange (SMEXs).
- Since March 2020, Oxfam in Lebanon has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic to address the needs of vulnerable communities in the Bekaa Valley. Along with local partners, Oxfam continues to distribute water, soap and disinfection kits to refugees in the informal tented settlements.
- Oxfam in Lebanon works on active citizenship and good governance, economic justice and humanitarian programs.
- Oxfam has been working in Lebanon since 1993 providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people affected by conflict, and promoting economic development, good governance at a local and national level, and women’s rights through work with local partners. Oxfam also works with local partners to contribute to the protection and empowerment of marginalized women and men.
- Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world: 1 out of every 4 people. In response to the Syria crisis, Oxfam has been providing water and sanitation, and emergency cash assistance for refugees and poor Lebanese, helping refugees with legal protection issues, and supporting small businesses and private-sector job creation. Oxfam is currently working in North Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, South Lebanon, and in Palestinian camps and gatherings.
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