“I can't remember what happened next. I opened my eyes and found myself lying on the floor of my damaged house. My eyes and head were bleeding, but my only thought was to check on my children. I found them injured as well and together we rushed to the nearest hospital to seek medical help."
Beirut explosion: one year on
Published on 03 August 2021 04:01 PM
A year ago today, a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the port of the city of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, exploded killing at least 207 people, injuring over 7,500 people and leaving half the city destroyed.
People lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods in a country already deep in crisis on multiple fronts and struggling to deal with the effects of COVID-19, political instability and an ongoing economic crisis. The explosion had devastating effects for the most marginalised older people and their families who live there.
During emergencies like this, we know older people are often forgotten. Lebanon’s health systems were already overstretched and struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and the destruction of all the hospitals in central Beirut made it even more difficult for older people to access the health care or medication they urgently needed.
We immediately contacted our colleagues and partners in Beirut to ensure they were safe and to begin work on an emergency response. Our partners HelpAge International in Lebanon and Amel Association understood the enormous challenges older people faced recovering from the psychological, health and economic impacts of the Beirut blast at a time when COVID-19 was on the rise in Lebanon.
Talking to us about the impact of the blast on older people, Dr Georges Karam, President of HelpAge network member the Alzheimer's Association of Lebanon and head of the Adult and Geriatric Psychiatry Dept. of St. George Hospital University Medical Center in Beirut said:
“Even though this situation has affected everyone, it is these older people who are paying the highest price. Many of them were already sick and this emotional trauma could be enough to break them. They have no way of re-starting their lives over and are in despair.
“They are always marginalised in emergency response but in this crisis, they are the most at risk, particularly from psychological damage. They have already endured so much in their lifetimes and this could be the final straw.”
Through our partners we were able to reach older and those at risk with provisions and services specially adapted to their needs.
We reached 438 older people, and 1,752 of their family members. with support including:
- Homebased nursing care
- Medical consultations
- Medical equipment and supplies
- Information on health issues and the available services in the local area