UNICEF is sad and shocked at Beirut explosions, concerned about wellbeing of children, and supporting partners on the ground

BEIRUT/ SYDNEY, 6 August 2020 - In the aftermath of the Beirut explosions, UNICEF teams are working on the ground to provide relief to children and communities affected. “UNICEF is saddened at the loss of life following the horrific explosions in Lebanon.” said Ms. Yukie Mukuo, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon.

“According to latest reports, the death toll will exceed 135 with 5,000 wounded and over 300,000 people displaced. UNICEF is concerned that children are among the casualties and we are aware that those who survived are traumatized and under shock. Our hearts are with children and families who have been impacted, especially those who lost their loved ones. We wish a speedy recovery to the injured.

“UNICEF’s team in Beirut has not been spared. One of our colleagues lost his spouse, seven of our staff were mildly injured and dozens of personnel’s homes were damaged. Most of our staff- as are most people in Lebanon- are in a state of shock.

“UNICEF is coordinating very closely with authorities and partners on the ground to respond to the needs, including the health of other front-line workers. We have provided drinking water to staff at the Beirut port and are supporting the Ministry of Public Health to take out what is left of stored medicines and vaccines in a warehouse at the port. Child protection partners are providing psycho-social support to affected children across the city. Over the coming days, we will increase our efforts to reach families in need with much needed assistance. 

“Yesterday’s catastrophe in Beirut adds to what has already been a terrible crisis for the people of Lebanon compounded by an economic collapse and a surge in COVID-19 cases. The pandemic already meant that hospitals are overwhelmed, and front-line workers are exhausted.

“UNICEF confirms its commitment towards the people of Lebanon, the authorities and all partners on the ground. We are on the ground and will do everything possible to provide much needed assistance today and in the long run.

UNICEF Australia stands in solidarity with global colleagues in Lebanon and is deeply saddened by the loss of life. While actively monitoring the situation, Felicity Butler-Wever, Director of International Programs at UNICEF Australia, spoke of the impact of the blast at a time of multiple crises, “This couldn’t happen to Lebanon and the people of Beirut at a worse time. 

“The immediate needs of children and families following the blast will be huge and complex, with added complications of the global pandemic. UNICEF is mobilising resources on the ground to respond to the needs of children affected, including psychosocial support for separated children and supporting the government’s efforts to get the health system back up and running, including vaccinations.”

UNICEF Australia will launch a Lebanon Emergency Appeal today to support the urgent needs of communities in Beirut and to reach the most vulnerable.

UNICEF Australia Ambassador, first generation Lebanese-Australian, and former Wallabies rugby coach Michael Cheika has also extended his support to UNICEF’s response. “I am deeply shocked by the disaster unfolding in Lebanon and my immediate thoughts are with friends, family and communities suffering in Beirut and those Australians, like me, whose families are in Beirut right now.

“I feel very reassured that, even during the current global situation, international support is coming from Australia and that UNICEF is on the ground and responding to the extensive needs of children in Beirut,” 

“Many people don’t know that Lebanon, despite their own internal adversity, has an incredible history of stepping up to support displaced and vulnerable people in the region, now we - as generous Australians and the global Lebanese community - need to pull together and put our arms around them in their time of need.”

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For more information and comment from Felicity Butler-Wever or Michael Cheika

Gemma Hill, UNICEF Australia, ghill@unicef.org.au, +61 432 233 675