People in Need Fixes Windows and Doors in over 270 Homes After Beirut ExplosionSep 2, 2020
On 4 August, a huge explosion at the Beirut port rocked the Lebanese city, shattering homes and lives for kilometres around. The explosion, which left over 200 people dead and thousands injured, also left 300,000 people homeless.
Following the blast, volunteers and organisations rushed to the worst-hit areas by the port to support the survivors and help them rebuild their lives. Among them were Lebanese, refugee and international groups, working together and alongside one another; all-hands-on-deck.
People in Need (PIN) were already on the ground when the explosion happened, so they were ready to respond in the immediate aftermath. Working with sister-organisation, People in Need Slovakia (PIN SK), who have been providing education support in Lebanon since 2017, PIN began conducting assessments in port-side areas, to determine what support people needed most.
“It quickly became clear that people urgently needed broken doors and windows replaced, so that those who left could return to their homes and those who stayed could stave off the elements and noise, and restore some privacy, safety and a sense of normalcy,” says Denisa Bultasovam, PIN coordinator in Beirut.
PIN started working with a partner called the Green Helmets to fix up the windows and doors of blast-affected homes in Karantina, Mar Mikhael, Ashrafieh and Geitawi, some of the worst-hit districts near the port. The Green Helmets (GH) is a German NGO, staffed predominantly by Syrian refugee carpenters. GH has been working in shelter rehabilitation in Lebanon for the past few years, and has trained young Syrian refugee men in the field of carpentry, equipping them with the skills of a new profession so they can earn an income and sustain themselves and their families. Within a few days of the blast, GH had already set up a workshop in the middle of Karantina, from which they could easily and quickly go to people's homes, take measurements for missing windows and doors and make replacements onsite at the workshop. A few days after taking measurements, they returned to homes to complete the installation.
So far, PIN, PIN SK and GH have fixed windows and doors in over 270 homes, most of them in the port-side district of Karantina.
The district of Karantina has a history of tragedy, far-predating the explosion. Unlike the more vibrant hubs of Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael which were also very badly hit by the explosion, Karantina is a low income, mixed residential-industrial area inhabited primarily by people who work at the port, migrant workers, refugees and poorer Lebanese families.
Hussam, is a Syrian refugee who has been living with his family in Karantina for four years. Living only half a kilometre from the blast, he and his family were injured in the explosion and their home was badly hit. His wife and small child are staying with friends while he is fixing up the house, with the help of PIN and GH. Pointing to where he and his family were at the time of the explosion, he describes that “it happened so quickly, we didn’t realise that the whole house came in on itself, everything was flying.”
Now, as he fixes up the house and recovers from his injuries, Hussam is painfully aware that he has also lost his job and is already worrying about the rent. Hussam, like many refugee workers in the area, used to work at the port. But there is nothing left for them now.
Many families in the area have lost their income as a result of the explosion. Economically, the explosion couldn’t have hit at a worse time. Living conditions across the country have deteriorated significantly over the past year, as a result of the depreciation of the Lebanese currency, hyper-inflation and COVID-19 restrictions. As of August 2020, nationally, for all the population including Lebanese and refugees, more than 55% of the country’s population is now under the poverty line (headcount poverty) and struggling for bare necessities, i.e., almost double last year’s rate which was 28%. PIN will continue working to cover immediate shelter needs in the coming weeks, but is also looking for ways to help restore people’s livelihoods.