Why The Beirut Explosion Is Sparking More Instability For Lebanon

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More than 200 people are dead, 6000 people were left injured and about a quarter of a million are now homeless.

The explosion in Beirut last week has left Lebanon reeling.

The blast has also compounded the problems of a country that was already under a huge amount of strain.

So, what are the people of Lebanon facing in the wake of the Beirut blast?

Rona Halabi: “The effect that we feel as a result of this explosion is going to be long lasting unfortunately, because we are talking about a country that has already been in a fragile state on top of everything else.

This has been devastating. Everyone is very sad, very frustrated, very desperate in terms of the search for missing people.”

Rona Halabi is a worker with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Beirut.

She drove past the site of the explosion about fifteen minutes before the blast ripped through the city.

RH: “I was quite lucky. I was not injured, neither was my family. But the whole country is aching so, everyone in Lebanon somehow knows someone who was affected by the explosion. It’s a small country and everyone knows everyone, so it’s been really devastating.”

The problems for Beirut and the rest of Lebanon just seem endless in the aftermath.

Water and electricity infrastructure have been destroyed, thousands of people are in desperate need of food and a roof over their head, and Lebanon’s medical system is buckling under the pressure.

RH: “The health system in Lebanon has already been strained because we’re fighting COVID-19 and the cases unfortunately, have been increasing in the past few days. So, hospitals are overwhelmed and overloaded with work.

Another big need that we’ve seen is actually the need for mental health and psychosocial support because this blast has had a big, big impact on the mental health of the population at large.”

The explosion happened at Beirut’s port, where 2700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored since 2013 after it was impounded from a ship.

Beirut’s port was responsible for more than 80% of the country’s imports and now that it’s destroyed, it’s not just interrupting the chain of supplies throughout Lebanon; aid to neighbouring countries like Syria has also been totally disrupted.

But this might just be the start. Experts are worried that the explosion is going to lead to another period of serious instability for the country.

Lebanese people have been furious at the government for decades of mismanagement and corruption that has sent the country into economic meltdown.

A third of Lebanon live below the poverty line and around 25% of the population are unemployed.

Anger about this crisis has reached boiling point and tens of thousands of people have been demonstrating in the streets of Beirut demanding answers, ever since the explosion.

RH: “Protests have been picking up in Beirut city centre and this is something that will [put] more pressure on the health system … more pressure on an already fragile country. In the past two days we’ve had at least 250 who have been injured [in the protests] and some of those have been moved to hospitals.”

Lebanon’s government actually resigned in a pretty historical turning point for the country but it’s still unclear what will happen from here.

The Takeaway

Lebanon was already in crisis before the explosion but its problems and anger at the government have only been compounded in the aftermath.

Between a political crisis, economic stress, a pandemic and the explosion, Lebanese people have been put in a really precarious position and the global response to the blast can’t end here – because this could just be the start of something far more dire.