UN food agency “very, very concerned” that Lebanon could run out of bread in less than three weeks as 85 percent of the country’s grain comes through Beirut’s devastated port
The United Nations has said 50,000 tonnes of wheat flour will be sent to Beirut to stabilise Lebanon’s wheat supply.
A report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released on Tuesday said the World Food Programme would be sending 50,000 tonnes of wheat flour to the Lebanese capital in the aftermath of the deadly explosion in the port city.
At least 171 people were killed and more than 6,000 others injured in the explosion believed to have been caused by a fire that ignited a 2,750-tonne stockpile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate.
The material had been stored at the port since 2013 with few safeguards despite numerous warnings of the danger.
Reeling from years-long political and economical crises, Lebanese citizens have taken to the streets over the disaster, with many calling for heads to roll and for major changes.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the resignation of his government late on Monday, spelling even deeper turmoil ahead.
No strategic stockpile
A Reuters report earlier on Friday had revealed Lebanon held no strategic stockpile of grain before last week’s blast at the port and all privately held stocks at the country’s only grain silo were destroyed in the explosion.
The flour will be sent “to stabilise the national supply and ensure there is no food shortage in the country,” the report said.
Current flour reserves in Lebanon were estimated to cover market needs for six weeks.
“An initial shipment of 17,500 tonnes is due to arrive in Beirut within the coming 10 days to supply bakeries for one month,” the report said.
‘Beirut could run out of bread in 2.5 weeks’
The head of the UN food agency had earlier said on Monday that he was “very, very concerned” that Lebanon could run out of bread in about 2-and-a-half weeks because 85 percent of the country’s grain comes through Beirut’s devastated port — but he believes an area of the port can be made operational this month.
David Beasley, who is in Beirut assessing damage and recovery prospects, told a virtual UN briefing on the humanitarian situation following last week’s explosion in the Lebanese capital that “at the devastated site, we found a footprint that we can operate on a temporary basis.”
“Working with the Lebanese army, we believe that we can clear part of that site,” Beasley said.
“We’ll be airlifting in a lot of equipment, doing everything we can.”
Beasley said he had met with Cabinet ministers — who all resigned later Monday — and told them the UN needs “absolute cooperation now, no obstacles” because people on the streets are angry and said they need international help but “please make certain that the aid comes directly to the people.”
For the first time since last week’s blast, two ships docked at Beirut’s port on Monday including one carrying grain, according to state media.