Press release: Women Increasingly at Risk and Unable to Access Assistance Following the Beirut Explosion

Date: Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Beirut, 28 October 2020 – In the aftermath of the Beirut Port explosion on August 4, women in female-headed households, living within the explosion range, are suffering increased vulnerability. The effects of economic turmoil, greater risks of gender-based violence and the constant struggle to access assistance are highlighted in a new study, “Rapid Gender Analysis of the August Beirut Port Explosion: An Intersectional Examination,” by ABAAD, CARE International, ESCWA, UNFPA, and UN Women. The five organizations call for the scaling-up of tailored assistance to marginalized groups, specifically, female-headed households, who make up 51% of the affected population, and elderly women living alone, comprising of 1 in 12 households.

The joint Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA) of the Beirut Port explosion assesses how diverse women, men, girls, boys, and gender minorities have been affected by the explosion on August 4, examining the specific impact on women of diverse nationality, socio-economic background, legal status, ability, age and sexual orientation. The assessment gathers primary data from interviews with 49 responders and affected members of the community, and analyzes 45 existing reports and assessments, including a survey by the Lebanese Red Cross of over 17,000 households.

How have women and girls been affected by the Beirut Port explosion?

  • Women with increased vulnerabilities are a sizable portion of the affected population, with 51% identifying as female-headed households and 8% as elderly women living alone.
  • Destruction of people’s homes and shelter is exacerbating risks of gender-based violence and the mental health impact of losing one’s home, identity and safe space.
  • Women and marginalized groups continue to have an urgent need to access health services – especially first aid. At the same time, discriminatory practices and fear of harassment or abuse are deterring some women from receiving equitable humanitarian assistance.
  • The explosion has reduced availability and access to reproductive health services for households with pregnant and lactating women, whereby 40% of them reported needing healthcare in support of infants and mothers[1].
  • Feelings of despair and hopelessness, anger, frustration, agitation, and anxiety are reported to be exponentially growing amongst responders of all identities.

“The Beirut Port explosion is deepening the overall crisis the country is facing. In this, its impact is felt and experienced differently by people, and these different experiences are determined by people’s gender, access to capital and savings, social networks, safety needs, legal status, geographic location and other factors. In delivering our support, if we are to ‘build back better’ this needs to be understood and factored into all aspects of how we deliver and respond to both the port explosion and Lebanon’s compounded crisis”, said Rachel Dore-Weeks, Head of UN Women Lebanon.

The study warns that women are experiencing a significant decline in employment opportunities. This is related to the loss of a fairly high number of women-led businesses in the explosion radius, estimated at 1 in 5, and exclusion from economic opportunities in the reconstruction and recovery process. Female migrant domestic workers are particularly impacted by job loss, as many have been abandoned by their employers before and following the explosion.

The joint RGA strongly urges that health services are provided for free, and at home, for those who unable to access on-site services. It also recommends that humanitarian staff and response volunteers are trained on the basic protocols and principles of dealing with gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse.

For interviews, please contact:

Roula Rached, UN women roula.rached@unwomen.org

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[1] According to the Lebanese Red Cross (LRC)-led Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment (MSNA), surveying over 17,500 households.