The United Nations says it is stepping up emergency assistance to Lebanon following the explosion that devastated Beirut and is urging the international community to ``stand beside'' the Lebanese people who have generously hosted thousands of Palestinian and Syrian refugees for years.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Wednesday that among the thousands injured from the blast at Beirut's port are over 100 U.N. staff members and dependents, and among the more than 100 dead are two family members of U.N. staffers.
He said 22 members of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon were among the injured. One of the U.N. Maritime Task Force ships docked in the port was damaged, leaving naval peacekeepers injured, ``some of them seriously,'' he said.
``We expect that the damage at the port will significantly exacerbate the economic and food security situation in Lebanon, which imports about 80-85 percent of its food,'' Haq said.
The U.N. humanitarian office ``also expects that it will affect the U.N.'s ability to provide aid to Syria because the port in Beirut is one of the ways we are shipping aid,'' he said.
U.N. peacekeepers and staff in Lebanon are assisting in the emergency response and specialists are en route to support urban search and rescue operations and ``to conduct rapid assessments about the situation on the ground and help coordinate emergency response activities,'' Haq said.
A top U.N. priority is to support the existing hospitals and trauma response capacity, and the U.N. World Health Organization is working closely with the Lebanese Ministry of Health ``to conduct an assessment of hospital facilities in Beirut, their functionality and needs for additional support, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic,'' he said.
Assessments of humanitarian needs and shelter needs following the explosion are also underway, Haq said.
``The United Nations is looking at all options to find ways to provide financial assistance to support ongoing response efforts,'' he said.
Haq said it was too early to say if the U.N. will issue an international appeal to help rebuild Beirut.
``It would seem given the amount of damage that there will be a need for additional international support for Lebanon,'' he said, adding that the U.N. is heartened to see support from many governments and hopes all countries will stand beside the Lebanese people at this time.