Explosion in Beirut: How Project HOPE is Responding
A massive explosion rocked the port of Beirut, Lebanon on August 4, resulting in widespread, catastrophic damage throughout the city. Project HOPE is on the ground in Beirut, working to provide the vital support people need most. Learn more about how you can help Lebanese families.
The situation on the ground in Beirut is urgent. At least 200 people were killed in the explosion, and thousands were injured.
Your support saves lives. Donate to help us reach vulnerable children and families in Beirut today.
Project HOPE is in Beirut helping provide urgently needed medical supplies, protective gear, and other support to those affected by the catastrophic explosion on August 4.
A massive international response effort is needed to help the people of Lebanon, who continue to host the largest refugee population per capita in the world and were already struggling with a crippling economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic before this tragic blast.
Project HOPE stands with the Lebanese people, and we will work to provide support as long as it is needed.
Learn more about Project HOPE’s response in our latest Beirut Situation Report and get the latest facts about this disaster below.
What happened in Beirut?
At 6:10 p.m. on August 4, a warehouse at the Port of Beirut containing large quantities of ammonium nitrate exploded, resulting in widespread damage for several kilometers. The blast killed at least 200 people, injured at least 6,000, and left an estimated 300,000 people homeless, including 80,000 children. Multiple medical facilities, including several major hospitals, sustained structural damage. Several hospitals were destroyed.
What is Project HOPE doing to help?
Project HOPE is partnering with the Rene Moawad Foundation (RMF) Lebanon, a well-established local NGO that has mobilized medical teams to Beirut to provide immediate trauma care and psychosocial support. Project HOPE, in partnership with RMF, is providing immediate assistance through the procurement and distribution of medicines and medical and hygiene supplies. Additionally, Project HOPE is positioning for longer-term assistance to 10 primary health care facilities in the Beirut area.
Project HOPE has received two interagency emergency health kits donated by MAP International, which include enough medicines and medical supplies for up to 40,000 people for three months. Project HOPE and RMF will be distributing these medicines and supplies to the Karantina Government Hospital, Base Camp Clinic, and through RMF dispensaries. Project HOPE and RMF have already distributed two additional IEHKs to seven local NGOs and health care facilities.
Project HOPE has established a strong supply chain of medicines and hygiene supplies for local partners in Beirut. Several shipments are expected in the coming weeks, including more than 2,100 disaster health kits from MAP International, five pallets of syringes, and PPE including KN95 respirator masks. Project HOPE and RMF are finalizing distribution plans for these items based on needs at hospitals, mobile clinics, and local partners.
Project HOPE will continue to source items based on identified gaps and requests and ensure items are distributed to where the need is greatest.
What are the most pressing health concerns?
“It is heartbreaking to see the country of my birth go through so much. I grew up in Lebanon during the war. Since then, I have been to many war zones, but I have never seen an explosion as powerful as this one.”
The most pressing health concerns in the wake of the explosion were burns and traumatic injuries, as well as respiratory issues due to the release of toxic air pollutants. Hospitals — many of which were already nearing capacity with COVID-19 patients before the explosions — were quickly overwhelmed with injured patients after the blast. Many patients were treated in makeshift conditions, including on sidewalks and in parking lots.
A rapid assessment by the World Health Organization of 55 health care centers in Beirut found less than half to be fully operational and 37 percent sustained moderate to serious damage. Health facilities report needs including medicines and medical supplies, chronic disease medications, oxygen concentrators, psychosocial support, and expanding primary care services.
Project HOPE’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) continues to meet with leaders of hospitals, health centers, and local relief organizations in Beirut. The following needs have been reported:
- Medicines and medical supplies for hospitals, including all consumables, surgical supplies, antibiotics, and analgesics. Health facilities assessed by Project HOPE also reiterated a need for medications for chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, due to supplies lost following the explosion.
- Protective gear for doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 patients, and oxygen concentrators for patients whose medical equipment was damaged or destroyed.
- Protection services, such as psychological first aid and psychosocial support are needed for at-risk populations, including children, who face trauma due to the explosion and loss of homes and livelihoods.
- Expanding access to primary health care services through existing static clinics in high-risk communities as well as mobile clinics in areas where hospitals have been impacted.
In addition to health, other needs reported are shelter, food, relief supplies, protection for vulnerable populations, and mapping of needs and services.
How did this happen?
The ammonium nitrate that exploded appears to have been stored at the port since 2013, when a cargo ship that was carrying it to Mozambique was abandoned and its cargo stored in a warehouse at the port. It appears that a fire spread among the port about 10 minutes before the blast, at about 6 p.m. Two explosions soon followed — the second of which sent a large red cloud into the air and destroyed large swaths of the city.
How big was the blast?
The second, larger explosion registered as a 3.3-magnitude earthquake and was felt as far away as Cyprus, 150 miles away in the Mediterranean. The blast left a 460-foot-wide crater at its epicenter, and satellite images show complete destruction in the immediate area of the port. It is one of the strongest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded.
The explosion’s blast wave caused catastrophic damage for miles and shattered windows at Beirut International Airport five miles away.
Is COVID-19 spreading in the wake of the blast?
Yes. In the first month after the explosion, COVID-19 cases increased 220%, and there is growing concern around the number of health care workers falling ill. As of September 2, more than 670 health care workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, with 80 new cases confirmed between August 30 and September 1 alone.
Not only are cases among the general public increasing, but the number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 is increasing as well. Approximately 60% of intensive care unit beds designated for COVID-19 are currently occupied.
Many hospitals and clinics in Beirut remain damaged, and as the recovery phase continues, efforts in the short-term should focus on ensuring continuity of health services and establishing sustainable supply chains of medicines and supplies.
How you can help
Make a lifesaving gift to support our response in Beirut at projecthope.org/beirut.
Are you a health-care or other professional who would like to learn more about volunteering abroad with Project HOPE? Learn more about our volunteer program and join our volunteer roster.
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Story originally published on August 5, 2020, and most recently updated on September 4, 2020.