For the Lebanese people, who have watched helplessly as their economy has collapsed in recent months, the devastation wrought by Tuesday's blasts in Beirut is one disaster too many.
The deadly blasts struck at a time when Lebanon's currency has plummeted against the dollar, businesses have closed en masse and poverty has soared at the same alarming rate as unemployment.
"It's an earthquake," said Kamel Mohanna, founder of the Amel Association International charity founded during the 1975-1990 civil war.
"I've been working in humanitarian aid in Lebanon for 47 years, and I've never seen anything like this," he said as hospitals were overflowing with wounded and the capital was reeling in shock.
Lebanon's government has declared a two-week state of emergency following Tuesday's devastating blasts, which killed more than 100 people and injured thousands more.
For months already, many Lebanese struggling in the country's worst economic crisis in decades have turned to charities once largely dedicated to the nearly two million Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.
Amid the economic turmoil, cash shortages, pandemic and street protests, Lebanon's middle class — teachers, civil servants, nurses — have already seen their lives turned upside down.
Now, after the massive explosions that ravaged Beirut's port, officials estimate that an additional 300,000 residents will be left homeless.
And the disaster damage bill for an indebted country that was already asking for help from international donors is expected to range between $3 billion and $5 billion dollars.
'Asking for alms'
Maya Terro, founder of Food Blessed, a local charity that distributes food aid, now expects a huge additional demand. Beirut's port, which was flattened by the explosions, is the main gateway for imports.
"Lebanon imports 80 percent of its food," Terro said. "Immediately I thought: empty supermarket shelves, increased prices due to shortages."
Inflation of basic food goods already soared by 109 percent between September and May, according to the UN's World Food Programme (WFP).
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization warned Tuesday that, after huge wheat stockpiles at the port were destroyed, "we fear that we will soon have a problem with the availability of flour for the country".
Even before the explosions, life was a daily struggle against poverty and hopelessness, Gaby, a former civil servant in his fifties living in a suburb of Beirut, told AFP several days before the disaster.
Gaby, who used to fire up the grill twice a month for a family barbecue, said he now has no choice but to go to a charity to get rice and pasta.
"I feel like I am asking for alms," he said.
With hyperinflation, neither his pension — worth $1,600 at official rates, but just $300 on the black market — nor his work as a taxi driver or his wife's salary as a nurse are enough to support family needs.
"We deprive ourselves of a lot," said the father of four. "We used to have meat four times a week. Today, nothing at all, not even chicken."
'Everything is difficult'
Nearly half of Lebanese now live below the poverty line, according to official statistics.
Economic difficulties were a key driver of mass protests that began last year against a political system widely seen as corrupt and inept.
The economic crisis has been compounded by the loss of income caused by restrictions to stem the Covid-19 pandemic.
Two-thirds of Lebanese households have seeRead More – Source