Beirut explosion: Tens of thousands of new homeless face winter crisis

Published 31. Aug 2020|Edited 30. Aug 2020
Tens of thousands of people made homeless by the explosion in Beirut on 4 August risk being left out in the rain and cold unless aid funding is stepped up immediately, the Norwegian Refugee Council warns.

A total of 200,000 homes were affected in the blast, including 3,000 severely damaged or destroyed, according to UN estimates. An estimated USD 84.6 million is needed in just the first three months of the emergency for shelter assistance. Only USD 1.9 million of that amount (2.3%) has been disbursed so far.  

“One month since an estimated 300,000 people were made homeless, we're seeing thousands of families for whom help is arriving too slowly,” said NRC’s Country Director in Lebanon Carlo Gherardi. “With the cold weather around the corner, we're extremely worried about them having to face even harsher conditions than they are already facing now.

“Tens of thousands of homes cannot be repaired in time for winter unless the international community provides additional funding very quickly, and is substantial enough to also address recovery needs beyond the immediate response. We are in a race against time to ensure nobody is left behind.”

Winter is not only a threat for the new homeless in Beirut. Even in normal times, many poor Lebanese and refugees across the country live in substandard conditions with aid funding for shelter needs remaining woefully low. Refugees have died in past winters because of the cold.

The Norwegian Refugee Council is working directly and with local partners to repair damaged homes and provide assistance to affected families, but the extent of the destruction means that the worst hit families risk having nowhere safe to live anytime soon. In Karantina – one of the worst affected neighbourhoods where NRC works – the majority of the community are extremely poor Lebanese, refugees and migrant workers who already struggled to make ends meet before the blast.

The explosion came on top of a deep financial and political crisis, as well as several pre-existing threats to refugees and vulnerable people, including evictions and homelessness due to an inability to pay rent. Meanwhile Covid-19 cases are reaching record highs, putting health services under unprecedented strain.

The explosion severely damaged the country’s main port and lifeline, as well as hospitals and 159 schools hosting 85,000 children.

NRC has spokespeople available for interview.

Photos and B-roll can be downloaded for free use and distribution.

Press contacts:

Karl Schembri, Media Adviser, karl.schembri@nrc.no, +962 7902 20159,

NRC’s media hotline, +47 905 62 329, media@nrc.no.