On 4 August tragedy struck Lebanon. An explosion in a warehouse at the port of Beirut, left more than 300,000 people, of which approximately 100,000 children, homeless and displaced, 6,000 injured and 200 dead (ECHO18/08/2020, UNICEF 14/08/2020).
Those most affected by the blast were either living or working within the Beirut and Mount Lebanon governates (acaps 12/08/2020). Many have found shelter within public buildings as well as in the homes of family and friends. The impact of the explosion continues to push the country further into a state of insecurity, as well as affect the wellbeing of many household members. Reports show both adults and children are suffering from psycho-social distress triggering excessive worry and fear (WVI 15/08/2020).
Although response efforts are widespread, there is limited information being received from some sectors causing lag in coordination and aid distribution. For example, damage to WASH and education infrastructure has been reported and key shelter findings included vulnerabilities within the housing electrical infrastructure. Many assessment reports are not including such detail (acaps 12/08/2020). There is also feedback that due to the range of responders, many informal actors are engaging in efforts complicating the response for not having the necessary accountability mechanisms in place. (HelpAge 14/08/2020).
Only from meeting with local internet service provider (ISP), Inco Net-Data Management (IDM), was NetHope informed of the 583 households and 100 companies including NGO offices, having lost connectivity due to the blast. Other assessments made by NH partners, the Emergency Telecommunications Sector (ETS) also revealed the level of telecommunications damage caused by the explosion. Most damage was within the core of the Beirut port as well as areas Mar Mikhael and Qurantina. Aid workers, including NetHope members, International Medical Corps (IMC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and others responding in the area require data connectivity and security telecommunications to safely continue carrying out operations (OCHA 08/2020).
The ETS also highlighted the need for vulnerable communities to be able to access humanitarian digital services and information for assistance. The lack of affordable connectivity services hinders access to vital and trusted information making them more vulnerable. As affected communities begin to migrate back to the areas where they work and call home, it is important to highlight the need to provide connectivity and power in the wake of recovery (OCHA 08/2020).
Now that the state of emergency has been extended for one month, the possibility of a two-week lockdown due to COVID-19 is being considered, and the likelihood of civil unrest are looming. Pressure to maintain a structured nation may call for stricter response operation guidelines. We will see an increased need for coordination and resources which are already being depleted as the response effort continues.
NetHope’s Disaster Preparedness and Response strategy is to be ready for the next potential onset emergency. As NetHope, in collaboration with its partner Cisco, continues to work with its members and local ISPs, it is also looking at ways to contribute to the sustainable preparedness capacity of those agencies it serves.