Beirut blast: Devastating statistic unearths real horror behind explosion

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The horrifying reality of the devastation caused by the explosion in Beirut, which has left Lebanon counting the cost of lives and displacement that will rock the war-torn country for generations, could see thousands of women forced into "negative coping strategies" as they come to terms with unemployment.

New estimates from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) have found that 150,000 women and girls have been displaced following the blast earlier this month, with many experts fearful of what will happen to them. Before the explosion, Lebanon was already in a critical economic crisis, with the IRC revealing at least 30,000 women were already unemployed, with even more now facing no job prospects after the blast. The misery was compounded after 170 people died in the explosion, which injured a further 6,000 and sparked widespread protests against the authorities across the already divided country.

But the real cost is still being counted and experts are now majorly concerned for the thousands of women and girls who have been displaced, with fears they will become reliant on negative coping strategies including skipping meals and incurring debt as a result of their unemployment.

Matias Meier, the IRC's country director in Lebanon, said the "explosion has torn people's lives apart" and left the nation "devastated".

He said: "Although we have seen an incredible outpouring of support and solidarity from the local community, in an emergency situation like this, existing protection mechanisms that are usually in place to keep people safe often break down - and it is for this reason that women and girls are among those worst affected when disaster strikes.

"To assist those who are most vulnerable and most in need, it is crucial that we do not let anyone fall through the cracks.

"We estimate that over half of those displaced by the blast are women and girls."

Lebanon, a country already in the midst of its own refugee crisis with thousands of Syrians fearfully fleeing their own country due to political and military tensions, was already struggling to cope with the current coronavirus pandemic, as well as struggling economically.

A recent IRC survey also found a disturbing trend within Lebanon, that the second most common form of gender-based violence in the nation was the forced and early marriages of girls.

This only cemented Mr Meier's fears for the country, and particularly the women and girls struggling within it.

He added: “For single women, female-headed households and those without strong familial or community support networks, such as migrant workers, these coming weeks and months are going to be particularly difficult. Many will have witnessed the destruction of their homes and the death of friends or family.

"Hundreds will be recovering from physical injuries themselves and will be suffering from the psychological effects of what they have been through over the past week. Some will have life changing injuries. Some will need substantial emotional and psychological support to help them come to terms with this disaster, to mitigate against risks of violence and abuse, and to help them cope with the suffering they will continue to see around them over the coming months.

"We are providing emergency cash assistance and protection support to assist those in critical need, but we urgently need to scale-up our response to ensure that all women and girls are able to receive assistance in the long-term so that everyone who has been impacted, can get back on their feet.”

The IRC's worries come as Lebanon becomes engulfed in a civil divide over the responsibility of the explosion, with many demanding current President, Michel Aoun, stand down.

He claimed it would be "impossible" for him to resign as it would not allow for a "continuity of power".

He added: "If I were to resign, one would need to organise elections right away. But the current situation in the country does not allow the organisations of such elections."

The President said an investigation was "complex" but ongoing, although he gloomily predicted that "it won't be finished very quickly".
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