Over 75% of Lebanon’s food is imported and arrives through the port, which sustained near irreparable damage. A huge silo containing 3 months’ supply of grain was also destroyed in the blast. An economic crisis had already tripled prices for everyday goods, and now many items will be scarce and inaccessible, including food, medicine and sanitary products.
Within a day of the explosion, GRObeirut volunteers cleaned a local building and turned it into a food storage and preparation centre. Situated directly next to Laziza Park, this house will serve as a kitchen, and food will be distributed in the park itself to those most in need and those volunteers providing immediate assistance.
Having worked on a food distribution scheme previously, GRObeirut has the experience and contacts to source food cheaply and in large quantities within Beirut and outside. We also have a relationship with the Lebanese food charities that cook and distribute free meals, as well as organic farms located in the mountains outside the city.
The response of the Lebanese government and the international community is concentrated on the port, hospitals and downtown district which are in urgent need of repair. Within this context, any relief for our local community is likely to be slow in arriving, and this underlines the need for an instant and direct local response. Residents are currently living in homes stripped of their windows, doors and ceilings, and GRObeirut has mobilized quickly to help families feel safe and secure as soon as possible.
We are leveraging our contacts in the community to prepare carpenters, welders and drivers for cleaning damaged homes, reinstalling doors and windows to make homes habitable, and crucially provide a sense of safety in an increasingly unstable environment.
Looking ahead, the blast severely damaged much of old Beirut. Marseille tiles from the old Ottoman buildings have been blown away, and the roofs will have to be covered before winter to save them from being lost permanently. Central to GRObeirut has been the maintenance of Beirut’s old character, and so we will work to provide these buildings with temporary protection before more serious renovation work can begin
The importance of our initiative lies in the fact that it is community-led and cuts across Lebanon’s traditional divisions, and this in light of a real fear that Beirut’s fragile social fabric may unravel in the form of intersectional tension following the events of 4th August.
Laziza Park now stands as a symbolic sanctuary, a place where people will congregate to work, eat and take a break in the shade together. We are not faceless people in uniform handing out brown boxes, but neighbours and friends working together to rebuild the community
We don’t want people to feel left behind. If people feel that the international community has turned a blind eye to their plight, morale will plummet. This is why we want an immediate presence and impact on the ground, to show that Beirut is not alone in its most difficult time since the war.