UN scrambles to get aid to Beirut

A picture shows a blown-up ship which was thrown on the land at Beirut port August 7, 2020, three days after a massive blast there shook the Lebanese capital. — AFP pic
A picture shows a blown-up ship which was thrown on the land at Beirut port August 7, 2020, three days after a massive blast there shook the Lebanese capital. — AFP pic

GENEVA, Aug 7 — The United Nations said today it was desperately trying to get food, aid and medical equipment to Beirut following the devastating explosion that ripped apart the Lebanese capital’s port.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) warned that as economically ravaged Lebanon imports 85 percent of its food, the flow could be severely damaged.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), meanwhile, said it lost several containers of essential medical supplies in the blast, with personal protective equipment (PPE) completely burnt.

“WFP is concerned that the explosion and the damage to the port will exacerbate an already grim food security situation,” said the agency’s spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs.

The severe damage to Lebanon’s largest port “could limit the flow of food supplies into the country and push food prices beyond the reach of many,” she added.

Byrs said the WFP would be allocating 5,000 food parcels to affected families, which contain enough food to feed a family of five for a month.

It is also planning to import wheat flour and grains for bakeries and mills to help protect against food shortages.

The WHO said hospitals were overwhelmed with injured patients, with three hospitals now deemed non-functional, putting 400 beds out of use, and a further two hospitals partially damaged, putting a further 100 beds beyond use.

WHO called for US$15 million (RM63 million) to cover immediate emergency trauma and humanitarian health needs.

Unicef, the UN children’s agency, said preliminary numbers suggested that up to 100,000 children’s homes had been damaged or destroyed and they were now displaced.

It said hundreds of thousands of PPE items for the country’s coronavirus response were destroyed.

“We have initial reports of over 120 public and private schools that have sustained damage,” serving approximately 55,000 children, said Unicef spokeswoman Marixie Mercado.

The agency has launched a funding appeal for an initial US$8.25 million.

“The needs are immediate and huge,” Mercado said. — AFP

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