Anera Responds Quickly and Effectively to the Beirut Explosion

The catastrophic explosion in Beirut on August 4th generated a strong global response. Six hospitals and 20 health clinics suffered structural damage, impacting services for thousands of people and putting additional strain on the still operational healthcare infrastructure to treat the 6,000 people injured. Hundreds of thousands of medicines used to supply health centers across Lebanon were stored at the port and were badly damaged or destroyed by the explosion, leading to acute shortages in critically needed medications and supplies. With the crucial support of international donors, Anera and other organizations on the ground in Lebanon have been at the forefront of the efforts to meet emergency needs.

Anera is planning up to 20 shipments of medical donations to the country, the first of which arrived in Beirut less than three weeks after the blast and included 56 tons of medicines and medical supplies, donated by Direct Relief and others, and valued at over $12 million. Our initial emergency response focused on replenishing medicines and medical supplies that hospitals used in treating the injured free of charge. The many critical medicines we and our donors have delivered thus far include emergency health kits, wound dressings, antibiotics like vancomycin, anesthetics like sevoflurane, chemotherapy drugs like capecitabine, beractant for the treatment of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, antidiabetics, cardiovascular medicines, analgesics, PPE, disinfectants, and diagnostic equipment.

Filling genuine needs | A number of organizations and governments have dispatched relief supplies to support the emergency response. Coordinating relief efforts to ensure efficient and equitable distribution is essential. Anera maintains a continuously updated needs list of emergency medicines and medical supplies based on our ongoing direct communications with hospitals and medical clinics in Beirut.

We work directly with the hospitals immediately impacted by the blast  –  the American University of Beirut Medical Center, the Lebanese American University Medical Center, Hotel Dieu de France, and the Rafik Hariri University Hospital, and several primary care centers and dispensaries. These hospitals received the majority of those injured in the blast, treating them free of charge. Their medicine and supplies stockpiles were severely depleted as a result of the tragedy.

We speak daily with the hospitals to check in on what their most urgent needs are. All of Anera’s shipments consist of donated items that specifically address shortages specified in our needs list. As needs are fulfilled, we update our records to ensure nothing redundant is provided to medical facilities. Hospitals receive items from many different donors so we always verify with our recipients whether they still require what is being offered.

We then communicate needs to our amazing network of PQMD partners, such as Direct Relief, Catholic Medical Mission Board, Americares, International Health Partners, Health Partners International Canada, and Heart to Heart International.

Verification | Some on social media have expressed concern that donations will be resold or misdirected, due to endemic corruption. We are able to avoid any doubt about the final destination and use of our donations through careful monitoring at each step of the way.

After clearing customs, all of Anera’s shipments go to our distribution centers, where we sort and inventory the shipments. Upon delivery, recipients confirm everything they receive from Anera. They sign a pledge prohibiting the resale of any items and that they will provide the medicines free-of-charge to patients, even at private hospitals. As a final measure, we often conduct field visits to the hospitals.

All but the Hariri Hospital are new partnerships for Anera. We first vetted all of them and informed our medical donation partners of the new recipients, so they could conduct their own vetting.

Avoiding delays | After the blast, Anera became an official consignee in Lebanon, providing us with the legal authority to directly receive shipments. The designation allows us to receive and clear shipments more quickly. The new status minimizes delays in customs. Our first emergency shipment landed on August 24 and received expedited attention, clearing customs in just six hours with the facilitation of the US Embassy in Beirut.

Beyond Beirut | Meanwhile, outside of Beirut, health centers are being neglected. Some have even taken victims from the blast on as patients. For instance, the Tripoli Hospital, located in the poorest region of Lebanon, accepted six patients in its ICU. These facilities were in need before the blast due to the dire economic situation, with the plummeting foreign exchange rate making medicines unaffordable and unpaid government debt to the hospitals pushing many towards insolvency. Since the blast, their situation has worsened. We are asking our donors now to add extra pallets for health facilities outside of Beirut.