Lebanon: Beirut Blast triggers Explosive Rise in COVID Cases

After the major explosion in Beirut’s port area on Tuesday, 04 August 2020, Lebanon experiences a record jump in new COVID-19 cases. On Monday, 17 August 2020, Johns Hopkins University confirmed a new day’s spike of 456 confirmed infections. This brings the total of confirmed cases to 9,758 – a significant number for the country with a population of 5 million. Due to the explosive rise of COVID-19 cases, medical officials have called for a two-week lockdown in an effort to contain the pandemic.

Six days after the explosion, Lebanon’s prime minister Hassan Diab announced his government’s resignation, stating that the destructive blast in Beirut was caused by mismanagement and widespread corruption. The initial detonation on 4 August 2020 shook the capital and Lebanon’s population, killing over 170 people, injuring an estimate of 6,000 individuals, and driving 300,000 into homelessness. Moreover, the explosion destroyed Beirut's port as an important logistical trade and stocking centre for grains, damaged at least 55 primary health care facilities and rendered at least three hospitals fully inoperable, adding an additional burden to Lebanon’s “health emergency”. Lebanon’s health sector stands under severe pressure, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, overstretched hospital capacities and the unprecedented financial and economic crisis.

Since 2019, Lebanon has been experiencing a financial crisis, with a threat of major inflation, and large-scale unemployment rates, pushing people into poverty and starvation. Refugee communities, especially women and girls from Syria, are hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The explosion in Beirut aggravates the situation of women and girls in Lebanon, who make up 150,000 of the displaced after the blast, and who urgently require shelter, protection from sexual violence, and basic services. Another lock-down will leave women vulnerable to domestic violence and abuse, and displaced women in dire need of (temporary) housing and access to health care.

Gender Concerns International takes this opportunity to expresses its full solidarity and deep condolences for the families of the victims. Supporting and protecting women and girls at the times of crisis and in disaster response activities is pivotal. Support is needed to ensure that crises do not negatively affect women’s economic and political participation, and to continue the fight against sexual and gender-based violence. Gender Concerns International is vigilant to support its partners and other actors in any possible way during these difficult times in Lebanon.