Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) issued the following statement on Wednesday:
A week after the devastating blast that took place in Beirut on 4th August 2020, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is carrying out an emergency response to provide medical support to the people most affected by the explosion.
MSF's activities cover three main areas of intervention: wound care for people still suffering from injuries, continuity of care for chronic diseases patients, and mental healthcare for people affected by the explosion.
MSF's response is delivered around fixed two medical points established in the neighborhoods of Mar Mikhael and Karantina, the areas most affected by the explosion. The organization has also put in place a door-to-door intervention, to identify the needs of people living in the area and to better provide them with assistance. Additionally, the teams installed water tanks in the area and distributed water, drinking water and hygiene kits to people coming to the fixed medical point, as it had been highlighted as one of the main needs by the population surveyed in the neighborhood.
The powerful explosion that happened a week ago and ripped through the port warehouses caused the death of more than 150 people and the injury of over 6,000 people. The first response to the events came from the people of Lebanon themselves, who spontaneously tried to provide aid and support to the people impacted by the blast, with the minimal resources they had available. The explosion generated seismic shockwaves that shook the ground, shattered windows and smashed buildings across Beirut, a city already reeling from economic crisis and a surge in COVID-19 infections.
"Before the explosion happened, the public system was struggling to handle the increasing number of COVID-19 cases", explains Julien Raickman, Head of Mission in Lebanon.
"Since the explosion, there has been a very big rise of reported COVID-19 cases in Lebanon, especially in Beirut. There have been more than new 1 500 cases in a week , this represent almost 25% of all cases reported in the country since the beginning of the pandemic. On the night of the event, there was a huge influx of patients in health facilities across the capital, and infection and prevention measures could not be implemented properly which eventually led to this increase. Over 300,000 people have lost their homes and have had to find other places to stay, which doesn't make things any easier. This rise of cases is a major concern for us and we're also trying to see how to best adapt our operations in such circumstances."
Another area of concern for the organization is mental health. "After 45 years of continuous episodes of violence including wars, economic crises, and social tensions, this latest incident has added an extra layer of trauma for the people of Lebanon", adds Reickman. "By experience, we know that this will have a tremendous impact on the psychological wellbeing of the people and will stay for years to come. That's why a national mental health strategy needs to be put in place to manage the long-term psychological impacts of this crisis on the people of Lebanon".
Mental health being a key pillar of MSF's intervention the country, the organization was able to quickly mobilize a team of 9 psychologists to take part in its emergency response, providing psychological first aid at first and working towards developing a long-term response for people in need.
Before the implementation of its own activities, MSF donated first aid dressing kits and surgical masks to the Civil Defense and the Lebanese Red Cross on the night of the explosion and in the days following the events, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and respond to the explosion. Since then, MSF has been planning additional donations of medical supplies to support those tending to the high number of injured. "The role of these actors and of local organizations has been crucial, especially in the first week following the explosion. We're trying to also adapt our activities based on existing activities that have already been implemented at the level of civil society because they are clearly the leading force in this collective response to the events."