The Beirut explosion, one year later: Residences repaired, families back home, businesses restored

  • John Rivera
  • Aug 3, 2021

BALTIMORE — On August 4, 2020, a massive explosion at the Port of Beirut devastated the adjacent downtown area, killing more than 200 people, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, and displacing more than 300,000 residents. Over the past year, Lutheran World Relief has collaborated with local partners to help repair homes and restore businesses as life in the city’s core slowly resumes.

In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, when needs were most acute, Lutheran World Relief partnered with the Beirut-based Makhzoumi Foundation to distribute parcels of food and other essential household supplies. In addition, responding to a need discovered through emergency assessments, the partners purchased and distributed more than 200 electrical appliances, including refrigerators, microwave ovens and washing machines to aid families in need so they could safely store food and prepare meals.

A shipment of thousands of handmade quilts and baby-care items, initially believed to have been destroyed in the explosion, were found undamaged and were distributed to families in need.

As part of its longer-term response, Lutheran World Relief, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, launched an effort to repair hundreds of residences damaged by the blast. The Returning Evacuees to Urban Residences Now (RETURN) project targeted low-income families who needed but could not afford to make manageable repairs, such as replacing doors or windows, that would enable them to quickly move back home. The RETURN project had an initial goal of assisting 700 families, but eventually more than doubled that number, repairing more than 1,900 residences and helping more than 8,000 evacuees to return home.

In an effort to jump-start business recovery, Lutheran World Relief partnered with the Georges N. Frem Foundation, a Lebanese NGO, to provide assistance to 90 small businesses. These businesses, which include mini-markets, hairdressers, car mechanics, small shops, bakeries and tailors, typically have between one and five employees and represent the backbone of the local economy. The initiative, called the “3ammar Jdid” project, prioritized women-led businesses. Building on the success of this project, Lutheran World Relief will continue providing assistance to small businesses, enabling them to repair the remaining damage, replace or contribute to rebuilding of lost assets and acquire new tools to promote, regain and expand their market share.

Lutheran World Relief remains committed to its accompaniment of the Lebanese people, as well as its refugee communities, as the country endures an unprecedented fiscal crisis, political crisis and the ongoing toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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John Rivera, Aug 3, 2021 email