In the early evening of August 4, explosions flattened a significant portion of Beirut, Lebanon, suspected to be the result of ammonium nitrate catching fire. The blast engulfed the entire port area adjacent to the downtown core of Beirut, damaging residences and businesses, and overwhelming hospitals already struggling in the coronavirus pandemic. Witnesses reported feeling the blast in nearby countries.
The unexpected explosion and coronavirus pandemic exacerbate underlying economic and political strife. Lebanon’s economic crisis has shifted its traditional agricultural inputs, meaning Lebanon is now a net importer of food.
About half of the country is unemployed and dependent on food assistance. The port of Beirut is currently unusable, and the national food stock is reportedly low. Supply chains remain open through Tripoli to the north, but this blow to infrastructure limits access to critical markets for those most affected by the explosion.
The blast destroyed more than $600,000 in humanitarian relief items Lutheran World Relief had supplied partners, as they waited in the port. Lebanon’s role as host country to refugees has put added burden on food and public systems. The outlook for Lebanon is dire if coordinated action is not undertaken now.