This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing on 11 August 2020 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
“UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is saddened to report that the list of more than 200 fatalities and missing in the deadly and destructive explosion which rocked Beirut on 4 August also includes at least 34 reported refugee victims so far.
Our teams on the ground are still verifying the reports and we fear that the death toll among Beirut’s refugee population of some 200,000 could rise further. Seven refugees are still missing. Another 124 refugees have been hurt in the blast, 20 of them suffering serious injuries.
We continue to work with the rescue teams and other humanitarian partners to identify the victims and are extending support to the families who have lost their loved ones. This includes counseling, emergency cash and help with burial arrangements.
This explosion affected everyone, regardless of nationality or status. Our immediate humanitarian response to the tragic blast covers the entire community – including Lebanese, refugees and migrant workers. It focuses on the most vulnerable in the community and on two major areas – shelter and protection.
As part of the inter-agency humanitarian appeal, UNHCR is mobilizing US$12 million for its emergency response to the hardest-hit and most vulnerable households in Beirut. This package includes US$9.6 million for shelter interventions and US$2.44 million for protection activities for the next three months.
Together with other humanitarian partners, we are working closely with the people of Beirut and the relevant departments to assess the damages and identify the best and most meaningful ways to help. UNHCR’s aid stockpile in the country has not been affected and it includes shelter kits, blankets, plastic sheeting, mattresses, rub halls and several other critical items that have been made available to the Lebanese Red Cross and other partners on the ground.
An initial door-to-door assessment is underway in the most heavily impacted neighbourhoods and individual distributions of aid to identified people began already on Sunday, 9 August. First estimates indicate that up to 10,000 vulnerable households are likely to have been severely affected by the blast and are in need of urgent support.
Our priority is to identify and get aid to those in need of ‘emergency weatherproofing.’ This will help to secure entrances and windows, and provide some level of protection from the elements, safety and security, and restore people’s privacy and dignity. Affected people displaced outside the Beirut area will also be targeted with assistance.
Multi-purpose cash remains the most effective option to provide immediate relief and to support rapid repair and reconstruction needs. It will also help with getting food and covering basic needs and health costs. In the medium-term, minor repair, rehabilitation and ‘common area’ improvements will follow.
Meanwhile, our protection efforts build on our existing community engagement and mobilization, including referrals, psychological first aid, community messaging, and supporting community solidarity initiatives. People have really been at the forefront of the response and we will support their efforts directly.
We will further expand our work with civil society to identify new community structures and initiatives, to enhance communication, help identification of vulnerable families or individuals, enable referrals and response. Mental Health and Psychological Support and Psychological First Aid (PFA)are critical areas of our interventions in the current emergency response as many suffered trauma and loss of loved ones.
UNHCR-managed community groups and outreach volunteers, and partners are already trained on PFA and will be reinforced to provide psychological support and link people to community networks. UNHCR stresses the need for steadfast and timely international support for people of Beirut and Lebanon who have been generous hosts to refugees for years, through the challenging times of economic hardship and COVID-19 pandemic.”