The deadly warehouse blast in Beirut which devastated Lebanon’s already faltering healthcare system and U.N. agencies are scrambling to support hundreds of thousands of people, officials said on Friday.
Tuesday’s explosion fully or partially damaged five hospitals and removed 500 beds of capacity, a World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesman told a United Nations briefing.
Tonnes of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have also been destroyed just as infections in the country surge.
“The already weak health system in Lebanon due to the refugee crisis, to COVID, the economic and political crisis and the lack of personal protective equipment for health workers is a huge issue,’’WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.
The WHO has flown supplies from Dubai to treat people burned and wounded by flying glass and other debris.
The explosion killed 154 people and injured 5,000.
“Hospitals are overwhelmed with injured patients,’’ Lindmeier said, adding the blast also destroyed 17 containers of WHO medical supplies and completely burned PPE items.
The World Food Programme plans to import wheat flour and grains for bakeries and mills to help stave off food shortages.
The agency said it is concerned that the explosion and the damage to the port will worsen what it called an already grim food security situation in Lebanon, which was already dealing with a deep economic crisis.
Hundreds of thousands of people had their homes damaged
“The need for shelter is massive,’’ said Charlie Yaxley, spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.
The agency is making available stocks of shelter kits, plastic sheets, blankets and mattresses, he said.
Several refugees may be among the dead, according to initial, but unconfirmed reports, Yaxley said.
Children’s aid agency, UNICEF, said up to 100,000 children were among the displaced.
The blast also damaged schools educating 55,000 children and destroyed a critical care facility for newborns. (Reuters/NAN)