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, Oxfam warned 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,” said Oxfam’s Policy Lead in Lebanon, Bachir Ayoub.
“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. These families need urgent assistance to recover from this disaster and rebuild their lives.”
The blast came at a time when many people were already on the brink. An estimated 50% of the population was living under the poverty line, the Lira’s value had dropped 80% 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 and well out of reach for most people.
Oxfam is working with Lebanese organisations to ensure that Beirut’s most marginalised 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 prioritise 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.
The response is providing more than 9000 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 a lot 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.”
Oxfam is calling for fair and just distribution of aid to provide critical support to 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 minimum wage in Lebanon is set by the Government at 675,000 LBP, which was equivalent to $450 USD this time last year.
- One-metre square of average quality (6mm) glass cost $16 before the explosion. After August 4th, and with the increasing prices in the market, the Ministry of Economy specified the prices of one-metre square of glass with an aluminium frame at $500. The average market price of a door with quality locks is currently $700-1000.
- 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, psychosocial support and medication. The services are being provided to families and individuals in the affected areas, including women, girls, LGBTQ+ community members, people with disabilities and migrant workers.
- 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 tent settlements.