United Nations World Food Program (WFP) Director David Beasley has pledged to deliver 17,500 metric tons of wheat flour, as well as a three-month supply of wheat, to Lebanon.
Experts say a critical food shortage is imminent about a week after a massive blast devastated the port of Beirut - the entry point for 85% of the country's grain - amid a grinding economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It is hard to comprehend the sheer scale of the destruction caused by the explosion until you have seen it for yourself - I am heartbroken," Beasley said after making port visits with engineers to assess what could be done to stabilize food imports and distribution in Beirut and Tripoli.
Beasley told a virtual U.N. briefing Monday that engineers have identified an area within the damaged port that can be made temporarily operational and that the first shipment can be expected to arrive within two weeks.
"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."
WFP officials say the first wheat flour shipment will be directed to bakers and millers who can generate a 20-day bread supply nationwide, which will be followed by shipments containing another 130,000 metric tons of flour over a 60-day period.
The WFP issued a report in July identifying Lebanon among 25 nations expected to experience acute food shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency announced plans Sunday to expand its cash-assistance program for Lebanese citizens and increase the value of its food cards by 73% to $46 (70,000 Lebanese pounds).
The WFP and other U.N. agencies are sending equipment to help make operational again Beirut's port facilities and grain silos, along with generators, mobile storage units, and emergency medical kits.
Local media reported that two ships docked Monday at Beirut's port, including one carrying grain, for first time since the August 4 explosion.