LONDON: The international community must urgently step up its support for Lebanon to prevent people throughout Lebanon from going hungry as a result of the 4 August explosion in Beirut, a UN human rights expert warned on Friday.
“The explosion destroyed the country’s main source of food and has further pushed Lebanon to the brink of a hunger crisis,” Michael Fakhri, special rapporteur on the right to food, said.
“Lebanon’s food system has always been fragile because it relies on imports for 85 percent of its food. The situation has become dire now because the Port of Beirut handled approximately 70 percent of the country’s total imports before the explosion.”
In addition to the at least 200 deaths and more than 6,000 injuries, the explosion destroyed 15,000 tons of wheat kernel and barley stored in silos at the port. Lebanon does not have a national grain reserve and without support, the country could run out of flour by the middle of September, Fakhri warned.
Coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing economic crisis, people, especially the most vulnerable, are already struggling to get food. As it stands, Lebanon has recorded 14,937 cases of the virus, with 146 deaths and 4,133 recoveries.
“A hunger crisis to this degree is always caused by systemic national and international political failure, and this is definitely the case in Lebanon,” Fakhri, who is also a professor at the University of Oregon’s School of Law, said.
“An increasing number of people are being forced to compromise on the quantity or quality of the food they eat, or go for days without eating,” Fakhri said. “It’s urgent that the international community step up now and use multilateral institutions to help reconstruct Lebanon’s food and agriculture systems.”