Beirut explosion one year on

Today marks one year since the catastrophic port explosion in Beirut, on 4 August 2020. The blast killed at least 220 people, injured over 6,000, and left some 300,000 people displaced from their homes.

The explosion destroyed seven major hospitals and partially damaged a further 11, while a number of primary healthcare centres and dispensaries, private clinics, pharmacies and standalone laboratories were damaged. The World Health Organization reported that approximately 500 hospital beds were lost. In addition, in a rapid assessment conducted by the World Bank, approximately 36% of health facilities were affected by the explosion, limiting the authorities and aid agencies’ ability to provide care for a radical increase in the number of patients; including those directly affected by the explosion, those with ongoing medical conditions and a growing number of COVID-19 patients.

At the time of the blast, the country was already struggling due to socio-economic and political turmoil, which had led to astronomical rises in the prices of goods including medicines. Lebanon also has more refugees per capita than any other country in the world, with refugees having extremely limited access to government health services. All this, plus the global pandemic, has left Lebanon’s healthcare system on the brink and relying heavily on donations and external support.

One year on, and our work to deliver critical medicines and supplies has not abated.

Here are just some of the ways your support is helping to strengthen the country's fragile health system and reach those in need in Lebanon.

Since August 2020, we have shipped 543,267 treatments of essential medicine to Lebanon.

"In the past 2 years, Lebanon has witnessed unprecedented traumatic events that led to a marked rise in the number of Lebanese people suffering from mental health problems. Consequently, access to mental health medications has become of utmost importance to cope with stressful life events. In an effort to give a glimpse of hope to our community, we are constantly joining forces with donor partners to secure large quantities of mental health medications."

- Lina Atat, pharmacist and medical donations programme manager, Anera. -

Ensuring the supply of medications for chronic conditions 

A number of underlying health conditions including diabetes, hypertension, and breathing problems such as asthma, make people more vulnerable to serious illness as a result of catching COVID-19. Ensuring a regular and plentiful supply of medications to manage these conditions, means patients needn't visit pharmacies or healthcare centres as often, thus reducing their potential exposure to the virus and minimising their risk of catching COVID-19. However, Lebanon is facing a critical shortage of medicines for chronic conditions, over-the-counter medications are running out, and prices are spiralling due to ongoing hyperinflation. Diabetes, heart and blood pressure patients, who need daily medication, are being forced to rely on alternatives rather than having access to their usual pills.

“Out of every ten patients, we turn away maybe eight," says Dr Bsat, a pharmacy owner in the capital of Beirut."

Since August 2020, we have shipped over 50,000 treatments for chronic conditions such as these, all distributed free of charge to patients.

Saint George Hospital is one of Anera’s partners receiving medical aid through IHP. Aleyna is a 57-year-old Lebanese patient and one of the many who depend on the hospital’s pharmacy to get medication. 

“I am running low on money, and the situation is difficult. I purchase some of my medication from the pharmacy. Of course, I’ve had to cut down on many of them, like aspirin and vitamin D, because prices have increased.”

Thankfully, IHP’s supply of medicines to her local hospital ensures that at least she doesn’t have to worry about her most important regular medicine. “I get my diabetes medicine from the Saint George Hospital pharmacy.”

Sustaining the supply of medical supplies as well as medicines

In the immediate aftermath of the explosion there was a critical need for medical supplies and equipment, particularly for wound dressings and syringes. Unfortunately, this need has worsened and the country continues to face a major shortage of medical supplies, with certain supplies more scarce than others, or more costly in the Lebanese market. Since August 2020, we have shipped over 2.7 million items of medical supplies including wound dressings, needles and surgical packs. Thanks to these donations, our in-country partner, Anera, has been able to ensure medical supplies reach both Lebanese patients from different backgrounds, and Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in and outside of Beirut’s refugee camps. 

Dr. Muhammad Hasbini, the chief medical officer at Makassed Hospital, says: “We rely on organizations like Anera [and IHP] to help us sustain our hospital and our treatment of children, coronavirus patients and emergency cases.” He says the medicines donated by IHP have been “superb.” “We were able to make use of the supplies mainly for the emergency department and follow-up appointments for victims of the port explosion.”

Medical supplies as well as medicines, are absolutely vital in helping to support the infrastructure of the healthcare system and to provide doctors and nurses with the equipment they need to be able to carry out their work.

Mental health and psychosocial support

Mental health is an area with massive unmet needs, widespread stigmatization, and a lack of funding compared to other healthcare areas, despite ample evidence of socioeconomic benefits. Access to treatment and services for mental health is an element of healthcare provision which is often overlooked and unequal in who it serves.

Since June 2021 we have delivered over 6,000 treatments of mental health medication to Lebanon to support this growing need. This marks our first ever mental health programme which seeks to provide vital access to underserved communities and raise awareness of mental health conditions, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

Our work in Lebanon is far from over. Although a year has passed since the port explosion, the repercussions can still be felt, and Lebanon’s people are struggling more than ever to access the healthcare they need.

We need your help, to continue to supply our partners with medicines and supplies. Together we can do more. Please donate today.

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