Over the past month, 38 experts deployed by the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) have been working in the Lebanese capital to assist in the immediate aftermath of the explosion on 4 August 2020. They have examined the stability of damaged buildings, supported maternal and child health care in two hospitals and helped to repair 19 schools. Swiss Humanitarian Aid's rapid response mission comes to an end on 5 September, with further support measures entrusted to the Swiss cooperation office at the Swiss embassy in Beirut.
One month after the devastating explosion in Beirut, the consequences are still very much in evidence in the Lebanese capital. Switzerland sent experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit to Beirut within 40 hours of the blast. A total of 38 SHA members have been deployed in Beirut to date, seven of whom are still on the ground.
The explosion in Beirut's port on 4 August claimed some 180 lives and injured over 6,500 people. The shock wave triggered by the blast destroyed entire streets in the vicinity of the port. In addition, 178 schools and several hospitals were damaged or destroyed. The Swiss embassy also sustained damage.
In response to the situation, Switzerland initially concentrated its aid on structural engineering and securing hazardous materials. It subsequently directed its support to the health sector and the reconstruction of schools.
Swiss experts have undertaken over 80 building safety inspections since 4 August. This entailed analysing the habitability of damaged buildings in conjunction with local officials. The building which houses the Swiss embassy as well as the ambassador's residence and the apartments of embassy staff also had to be inspected. The embassy was able to resume its activities within a few days of the explosion. The Swiss ambassador and her team supported the SHA members in their work in Beirut.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) sent additional medical staff and 1,500kg of materials to Beirut to support maternal and child care in two hospitals. One of these hospitals has already reopened. Repairs are nearing completion at the other hospital, which is now already treating children again.
Swiss construction experts are also supporting the repair work at 19 state schools. The schools are being selected in cooperation with Lebanon's Ministry of Education, with particular emphasis on schools for the poorer sections of the Lebanese population and for Syrian and Palestinian refugees. This support will enable some of the schools to resume teaching at the end of September 2020. The SDC is also contributing to a Caritas Switzerland project in Beirut to improve access to quality education.
Rapid deployment to be completed on 5 September 2020
In total, the SDC is providing around CHF 6 million to support the population in Beirut. Of this, CHF 2 million is allocated each to direct support in the health sector and education. CHF 1 million is earmarked for the Caritas Switzerland project. The remaining CHF 1 million will be halved between the Lebanese Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Swiss Humanitarian Aid's rapid response mission comes to a close on 5 September 2020, with the SHA experts returning to Switzerland. Support operations following the explosion in Beirut will then be handed over to the Swiss cooperation office at the Swiss embassy and a Swiss construction expert.
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