Help for Beirut

A person standing on a scaffold in a backyard in Beirut

Humanitarian assistance also means working to help humanity and includes the preservation of cultural infrastructure, © Carmen Yahchouchi

02.12.2020 - Article

Nearly four months ago, a tremendous explosion devastated both the port and large parts of the city centre of the Lebanese capital. Despite the great willingness of international actors to help, the city and the entire country still face major challenges.

Widespread destruction

The explosions in the port of Beirut on 4 August killed at least 180 people and left more than 6500 injured. Numerous apartments and buildings were severely damaged or destroyed, leaving many people homeless. At least 15 medical facilities, including three major hospitals, sustained partial or heavy structural damage. Extensive damage of the port has resulted in increased food insecurity, which was already a growing problem prior to the blast, due to the COVID‑19 pandemic and the continuing economic crisis.

Comprehensive, rapid assistance

Immediately after the explosion, Germany pledged to provide 20 million euro in assistance; the aid it then delivered exceeded this amount. All in all, the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development made available some 24 million euro in aid. A wide range of assistance was offered:

  • The Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) helped in the search for people trapped under the rubble, as well as to assess structural damage to buildings.
  • The German Red Cross delivered a substantial amount of medicines and other medical supplies to its Lebanese counterpart organisation.
  • Urgent medical examinations were performed on 9800 people in Beirut in healthcare facilities that receive support from Malteser International.
  • More than 12,000 people in Beirut who were affected by the explosion received financial assistance from the World Food Programme.
  • The Norwegian Refugee Council received German support for its efforts to replace water tanks that were damaged in the explosion.
  • Current scholarship holders and alumni of the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI), which is coordinated by UNHCR, got involved on their own initiative, removing rubble, cataloguing damage, distributing food and assisting mental health experts as they tended to people suffering from shock and trauma.

In addition to humanitarian assistance, another important focus is the preservation of cultural infrastructure: For example, the Federal Foreign Office is supporting a solidarity fund of the Lebanese NGOs Culture Resource and the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) with a contribution of 600,000 euro. This has enabled relief payments for some 400 culture professionals whose work was directly affected by the explosion. Moreover, the Federal Foreign Office is making available 500,000 euro to UNESCO’s LiBeirut fund. Its goal is to mitigate the consequences of the disaster in the spheres of education and culture – for example, by repairing damage to museums, cultural institutions and listed historical monuments in the vicinity of the port, and by securing buildings that are at risk of collapse.

As soon as the day after the explosion, a staff member of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) travelled to Beirut with the team of the THW, as part of the KulturGutRetter project, to conduct initial damage assessments of historical buildings. The DAI has seconded a number of experts who now are consulting with their Lebanese partners on how Germany can support the protection and preservation of damaged historical structures.

In addition to the aid provided by the Federal Government, a great deal of assistance has been made available by private organisations and individuals. The Orienthelfer e.V. association has partnered with the FC Bayern München football club to donate eight ambulances to Lebanese civil defence workers. The German Embassy helped transport the ambulances to Beirut.

A political vacuum still needs to be filled

After the Lebanese Government submitted its resignation on 10 August, the country has still not managed to make a fresh political start. Most recently, in late September, designated Prime Minister Adib stepped down after the political leadership could not agree on a new government. However, without a government, the country cannot set in motion the tangible and sustainable political and economic reforms it so urgently needs.

Germany and other international partners have repeatedly stated that any support beyond humanitarian assistance will be tied to reforms. This includes supporting the country in its resumption of talks with the International Monetary Fund. Together with its European partners and as a member of the International Support Group for Lebanon, Germany is working to facilitate the swift formation of a new Government.


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