The Beirut Explosion’s Impact on Mental Health

On August 4, 2020, an unexpected explosion of over 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate neglected for years at the Beirut port resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the region’s most populous cities. Over 200 people are estimated to have died, more than 6,500 were injured, and over 300,000 of Beirut residents, a third of them children, were displaced from their homes. The severity of the explosion at the port, with damages estimated at $350 million, was and continues to be exacerbated by a series of protracted challenges facing Lebanon.

Also impacted by the explosion is Lebanon’s migrant worker population, the majority of whom are female domestic workers sponsored by the national visa (kafala) system. In the last six months, these workers have faced increased rates of unemployment, homelessness, and discrimination, with reports of feeling abandoned and forgotten by their employers and the Lebanese government. According to a post-explosion needs assessment, the needs of migrant households notably vary from Lebanese households, with migrant households prioritizing acute needs such as cash and food followed by shelter repairs and medication.

Furthermore, access to healthcare for migrant workers is usually contingent on the presence of a sponsor and the presentation of a work permit. To fill this gap, organizations like Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have set up a medical helpline specifically for migrant workers—which has reached nearly 170 migrant workers since November 2020. Nonetheless, the deteriorating situation across the country continues to threaten the well-being and security of migrant workers and requires urgent attention from both the local and global community.

English | February 11, 2021



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