Photo Source: HSOT
On Tuesday 4 August, nitrogenous substances in a container at Beirut Port exploded in a devastating catastrophe. With 178 fatalities and 6,000 injured, the United Nations estimates the impact of the event to have left one million people in need – a disaster in the midst of a pre-existing economic crisis, further compounded and complicated by COVID-19.
In response, the UK Government quickly invited the support of the UK Humanitarian and Stabilisation Operations Team (HSOT), implemented by Palladium. HSOT provides the UK government with capacity and specialist expertise to respond to disasters, crises, and complex emergencies.
Within 48 hours of the explosion, HSOT deployed a four-person team consisting of logistics support, a security advisor, and a field support specialist. They were followed closely by a second team including humanitarian advisors with expertise in information management, cash-based assistance, and response coordination.
“The blast had a devastating impact for many people across Beirut,” says Nigel Young, Humanitarian Operations Manager at Palladium and Field Team Lead. “We are pleased to be able to respond to alleviate some of the pressure. This blast has come on top of an existing financial crisis, making the need for response all the more crucial.”
A recent spike in COVID-19 in Lebanon (where testing capability is low and protective equipment is scarce) presented additional challenges. The total number of coronavirus infections has more than doubled since the blast.
The HSOT team adhered to Lebanon’s COVID-19 regulations and closely followed safety protocols to avoid infection and spread. The team fully quarantined upon their arrival until their COVID-19 test results were ready and then safely hit the ground running.
A Collaborative Response Effort
Once on the ground, the team rallied together on behalf of the UK with other humanitarian responders, including NGOs, UN agencies, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Red Cross, to shape the overall humanitarian response in full support of the people of Lebanon.
The first step was to assess the port infrastructure and develop a strategy for the provision of relief supplies, including medical consumables, food, and specialist equipment to assist port operations and clear debris. The team quickly produced a port damage assessment report, an essential document for supporting World Bank and other humanitarian teams to coordinate their efforts.
Within ten days of the team’s arrival in Beirut, ten tonnes of UK aid-funded medical supplies, including masks, goggles, coveralls, and gowns arrived on an air charter for distribution via the WHO to medical facilities, front line workers, and volunteers across Lebanon.
Young added, “This has been a good example of Palladium working between programmes. HSOT’s response expertise combined with Palladium Lebanon’s local knowledge and facilitation of the Team’s work proved an excellent combination and one that we should replicate elsewhere as and when needed”.
As with many crises, once the initial emergency responses are complete, assessment of funding is required to continue the recovery efforts in the months that follow.
To aid in these efforts, the HSOT team produced regular situation reports, conducted a light touch safeguarding assessment, engaged in coordination mechanisms, and analysed the Flash Appeal – a tool used for structuring a coordinated humanitarian response in the first three to six months of an emergency.
These activities informed HSOT advice to the UK Humanitarian team in the British Embassy Beirut, which included recommendations on funding for NGOs and support to UN agencies, the Red Cross, and other humanitarian responders. Currently, the UK is one of the biggest donors to this crisis.
Palladium manages the implementation of the Humanitarian Stabilisation and Operations Team, a program funded with UK Aid from the British people. To learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.