Women at great risk in Lebanon’s deepening crisis

With the latest development leaving large parts of central Beirut in ruins, the situation for many affected women is becoming unbearable.

The explosion on August 4th killed 200 people and left 300,000 homeless. Many local organisations are now responding to the immediate needs. Photo: Fredrik Westerholm
The explosion on August 4th killed 200 people and left 300,000 homeless. Many local organisations are now responding to the immediate needs. Photo: Fredrik Westerholm

Lebanon has experienced a protracted economic, political and social crisis, with increasing poverty rates and growing inequalities—these challenges have only been exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic.

The explosion on August 4th has dealt a further blow, with over 200 people killed, 6,000 injured and 300,000 made homeless. The damages to housing are enormous in many parts of Beirut. The hospitals are overflowing with injured from the devastating blast as well as a rising number of covid-19 cases. Four hospitals directly impacted by the blast have been left completely unusable.

Women exposed to multiple crisis

Women—and in particular migrant and refugee women, single mothers and women with disabilities or mental health issues—were already heavily exposed to the impact of multiple crises, with higher levels of vulnerability to job loss, poverty, food insecurity and violence.

The Beirut Port explosion, and its political and economic aftermath, will only exacerbate these challenges.

“Women already in vulnerable situations are in even more difficult situations now, relying on food and cash support,” says Marie Wikström, Kvinna till Kvinna’s regional manager for the MENA region.

“For example, women headed households where women lost their jobs as a result of the explosion are now left without income. Also, the trauma that women are going through in combination with taking care of the trauma of their children and the people they are caring for is a real burden. For many women and their families, this is a huge tragedy,” she continues.

With many houses left without ceilings, doors and windows and no electricity on the streets, many women are exposed to threats and feeling insecure. There are also reports of female migrant workers and refugees being discriminated and refused to receive support, leaving out women from the most vulnerable communities.

Providing food and restoring houses

Many local women’s rights organisations, including Kvinna till Kvinna partner organisations, are now responding to the immediate needs such as providing shelters, food, hygiene kits and psychological support, trying to ensure that women in the most vulnerable situations are reached.

“Many are also offering their staff to clean the streets, provide food and help restore houses where possible,” says Yasmine Masri, senior programme officer at Kvinna till Kvinna’s Beirut office.

The blast means that the needs for services and support is even higher than before.

“This is in combination with the fact that many of our partners are affected themselves with broken offices and houses. Everyone is of course shocked about what has happened, in an already difficult situation,” she continues.

The deep economic crisis obstructs the relief. The Lebanese pound is worth less and the costs are higher. Violent protests have erupted in the city with demands for change. The country is now under emergency law and the government has resigned. 

“This is one of the most difficult situations we’ve ever been in, and that’s saying something,” says Marie Wikström.

 

Kvinna till Kvinna has supported women’s rights in Lebanon since 2005 and has a local office in Beirut. Read more about our work in Lebanon here.

17 August 2020