By: Bamidele Fashube
The World Food Programme (WFP) on Thursday says it is launching a $235million emergency food assistance in Lebanon.
It said the support which include logistics and supply chain is to the most vulnerable in the country.
WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley who made the announcement during a visit to the country on Wednesday, said the organization is bringing 17,500 metric tons of wheat flour and a three-month supply of wheat into Lebanon to help replenish the country’s food reserves.
He said this is part of a rapid logistics operation that will also involve setting up warehouses and mobile grain storage units.
His visit is coming at a time when Lebanon is facing a triple shock from the Beirut explosion, economic meltdown and the impact of COVID-19 infection.
Beasley spent three days in Lebanon visiting the Ports of Beirut and Tripoli, witnessing food distributions and the provision of food in communal kitchens run by WFP’s partner, Caritas.
He also visited injured WFP staff in the hospital and had meetings with the Lebanese president and top government officials where he stressed WFP’s operational autonomy and neutrality.
“It is hard to comprehend the sheer scale of the destruction caused by the explosion until you have seen it for yourself. I am heartbroken,” said David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme.
“Today, because of the port explosion, thousands of people have been left homeless and hungry. WFP is racing to provide help for the most vulnerable and to prevent food shortages across the country.”
He noted that Lebanon imports nearly 85 percent of its food needs and – prior to the blast – the bulk of trade coming into the country passed through Beirut Port adding that the first wheat flour shipment WFP is bringing to the country is due to arrive within the next ten days.
Also, he said as a result of the extensive damage to Beirut port, WFP will be bringing in equipment to render the port operational enough to facilitate the import of wheat and other bulk grains into Lebanon.
“After examining the port we feel confident that we can establish an emergency operation very soon. There’s no time to waste as we are looking at a catastrophe in the making if we do not get food in and get this part of the port operational again,” he said.
Beasley added that the blast that devastated Beirut Port turned the world’s eyes towards the country that had been suffering without being heard for over a year. “It’s time to listen,” he stressed.
Also in a statement, the WFP said it procured 150,000 food parcels to distribute to families impacted by the economic crisis and COVID-19 lockdown measures.
It said since the blast, it has distributed parcels to two local communal kitchens run by NGOs that are providing meals to victims of the blast and volunteers working to clean up the debris.
“Building on its existing cash assistance programme in Lebanon that serves more than 100,000 Lebanese, WFP will scale up its assistance by ten-fold to reach up to 1 million people across the country including Beirut residents who have been directly affected by the blast.
“The most vulnerable people will be identified in partnership with local and international NGOs who are engaged in relief efforts, with the assistance of community leaders and WFP partners,” it added.