Since the deadly explosions in Beirut on Tuesday, many countries have sent humanitarian aid. While some hope that the international community will show flexibility, others call for the granting of this aid to be conditional on a political class judged to be harmed.
Over three billion dollars in damage and about 300,000 homeless. This is the first assessment of the “apocalyptic” explosions that hit the port of Beirut on Tuesday, July 4. If international support is there, the catastrophe at the worst time for Lebanon will come in the wake of a severe economic crisis with a collapse of the currency, record inflation and a growing wave of protests against power squarely. What role will international humanitarian aid play in this complex national context?
Several days after the explosion, the first aid team is still working to find some survivors. Several countries have sent teams there, such as France, which has deployed 55 rescuers who specialize in rescue and clearing. Qatari, Russian and Dutch personnel were also mobilized.
“The goal is to identify as many victims as possible, take them out and heal them,” said Commander Jean-Paul Bosland, Deputy Secretary-General of the National Federation of National Fire Chiefs, France 24. “We use dogs, very efficient and fast to find We then have to drill concrete slabs to gain access to people and carry out an initial medical check-up before organizing excursions. “
The coordination of foreign rescuers is done through the UN agency Insarag, which monitors the law and assigns the search for the various debris.
“The great difficulty with this type of explosion is that it leaves thousands wounded in three seconds. We therefore have to mobilize very, very quickly, hence the importance of international support intervening beyond local operations,” said Commander Jean-Paul Bosland. “This type of operation is an absolute emergency, but it lasts only about ten days and therefore constitutes only a very small part of the international support. At the same time, the health care structures and the care of the victims are set up, which in turn are spread over time, he concludes.
Emergency medical assistance
While tolls continue to rise, the city’s medical services, overwhelmed, rely heavily on humanitarian aid from abroad.
“We received a first wave of patients, injured by the shock of the explosion, some affected by objects, then a wave of more serious cases, some of which died,” explains Firass Abiad, head of Rafik University Hospital. Hariri, on the outskirts of Beirut, interviewed France 24. “As three hospitals are out of operation due to the explosion, we also had to accommodate many evacuated patients. We rely heavily on international support because our funds are limited.”
Several countries such as Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan have announced the deployment of field hospitals to compensate for the shortage of beds. In the context of an economic crisis that caused significant wage cuts, healthcare workers had to deal with the wave of Covid-19, which resulted in imprisonment for more than three months in Lebanon. The port explosion is likely to come at the worst time for Lebanese medical personnel.
“The country has experienced war and the staff has extensive experience in emergency medical care, to sort out priority wounded and work with them at the same time,” said Mego Terzian, president of Médecins sans Frontières, herself Lebanese, interviewed by France 24. “However, there is a risk that the deterioration of the health situation of the same staff due to lack of equipment, as well as of other patients, for example, suffering from chronic diseases.Their treatments may be interrupted in the event of drug destruction.At this level, international humanitarian aid must play a crucial role. “
While some food was already in short supply due to the economic crisis, the explosion in the port now sees the country being deprived of its main commercial hub, as well as several grain silos.
“We face a real risk of food shortages,” worries Maya Chams Ibrahimchah, founder of the Lebanese NGO Beit el Baraka, which specializes in food distribution, interviewed in France 24. “We grow only 10% of our seed needs, even “If we are a Mediterranean country, we no longer have access to our currencies due to the economic crisis and we can no longer import food. With this disaster, we risk ending up without flour or milk, which would have catastrophic consequences”.
A situation that has worsened since inflation of basic food products had already skyrocketed in Lebanon, reaching 109% between September and May, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
Financial support blocked
In April 2018, an agreement was reached with 40 states on a financial support plan to reduce the country’s debt. The aid was still blocked because the structural reforms requested at the time were never implemented.
“The explosion of the port will significantly emphasize the already existing shortage, and this is where the bulk of foreign humanitarian aid must be directed,” said Mego Terzian.
“Efforts have changed and the international community must show more flexibility today, as this is an exceptional situation. Foreign aid must focus on the short and medium term for the affected populations and cannot be made conditional on radical reforms.”
An opinion that Maya Chams Ibrahimchah does not share. She is concerned about seeing humanitarian aid diverted for political purposes and urges “friendly” countries to be vigilant: “The West, which is a donor of funds, must assume that the aid is granted. For thirty years, the population must not have seen the color”, she is indignant. “We must direct the funds to the international associations that monitor their use, no longer give the money to the corrupt government and hold them accountable.”