Impacts of triple emergency for Lebanon’s children will reverberate for years to come, UNICEF Australia warns, one month on from Beirut explosions

One month on from the horrific explosions that rocked Beirut, children and families are continuing to suffer the impact of the catastrophic accident. Latest reports have recorded over 190 people killed, 6,500 people – 1,000 children among them – injured, 100,000 children displaced, and 300,000 people without access to critical safe water and sanitation.

Lebanon now faces a triple emergency; economic crisis, COVID-19 and the aftermath of the explosions. UNICEF is positioned to respond to all three crises but has warned that the impacts on children will be grave and that without a concerted effort, they will reverberate for years to come.
 
UNICEF Australia’s Lebanon Emergency Appeal has seen a supportive response from generous Australians. The Australian Government has also committed AU$5 million to support children and communities in Beirut, which will be distributed between partners including UNICEF, Red Cross and the United Nations World Food Program.

However, the effects of the blasts will be long lasting and continued assistance is needed to reach the most vulnerable. Thousands of children and families remain in need of urgent humanitarian support:
  • Children, pregnant women, and families are in desperate need of access to medical care and health services, as well as sustainable access to safe water and sanitation;
  • Families require support to ensure adequate nutrition for their children;
  • Children need to be able to get back to education, whether in school or through high quality remote learning;
  • Children, parents and caregivers need psychosocial support to deal with the traumatic events they are experiencing;
  • Families require support in rebuilding their homes and lives through cash assistance and livelihood support. 
UNICEF Australia Ambassador, former Wallabies coach and proud Lebanese-Australian Michael Cheika has voiced his support throughout the appeal, “It’s been amazing to see the generosity of the Australian public and how effectively and quickly UNICEF put those donations into action to help Lebanese communities rebuild their lives,” Michael said.
 
“But the ongoing economic crisis and added threat of COVID-19 mean that much more support is needed to protect the futures of thousands of kids in Beirut. It’s a hard time for all of us, but when I think about kids who are now homeless or who have lost parents – it makes me see how fortunate we are here at home, while at the same time my heart breaks for the kids and their families in Beirut.”
 
UNICEF was able to respond immediately following the explosion, and in the last fortnight have re-connected over 155 buildings to the public water system, installed 870 water tanks in damaged households and distributed 4,485 hygiene kits to affected families.
 
18 shipments of critical humanitarian supplies totaling 67 tons have also been delivered in the past week. The shipments included vital PPE, medical, health hygiene and nutrition supplies. As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, and with 10 containers of PPE destroyed in the explosions, this will be critical to safeguard children and vulnerable people.
 
“Before the dust had begun to settle, UNICEF teams were working to ensure that urgently needed humanitarian supplies could reach children and families affected as soon as possible,” said UNICEF Lebanon Representative Yukie Mokuo. “Children have had their lives turned upside-down. Making sure that families have their basic needs met will allow them to start rebuilding their lives and look to the future,” she added.
 
UNICEF has already been responding to the economic crisis and COVID-19 emergencies in Lebanon, but has scaled up its response following the explosions on 4 August. With support from local partners, UNICEF is safeguarding the future of Lebanon’s children by:
 
  • Injecting $10 million in cash assistance for 60,000 children and vulnerable families
  • Training 1,250 young entrepreneurs in construction, carpentry and plumbing skills
  • Providing 1,000 paid internships for young people in the construction industry
  • Rapidly re-stocking medical and surgical for 16 destroyed primary health centres following the blast
  • Deploying mobile health units following the explosions
  • Providing mass trauma counselling and therapy for children, with over 1,400 reached so far
  • Connecting urgent water and sanitation services for survivors in damaged apartments
  • Re-stocking a children’s cancer care unit 
More than US$50 million is required for UNICEF to respond to the immediate needs of children and families over the coming months. The response focuses on keeping children safe; rehabilitating basic essential services; and equipping adolescents and young people with skills they need to be part of the effort to rebuild their country – all while limiting the spread of COVID-19. Immediate needs include water tanks amid severe water shortages, N-95 masks, tarpaulins, face masks, soap, coveralls, laptops and tablets.
 
Yukie Mono, UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon, will host a press conference from Beirut’s Karantina Public Garden to discuss the urgent needs for children today, one month on from the explosion. The event will be live streamed on UNICEF Lebanon’s Facebook page on Friday 4th September 2020 at 10am EEST (Beirut)/ 5pm AEST.
 
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For editors:
Multimedia assets can be found here: https://weshare.unicef.org/Folder/2AM408PWMSXD
 
For more information or for interview requests please contact:
Gemma Hill, UNICEF Australia, +61 432 233 675, ghill@unicef.org.au

About UNICEF
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in Australia, the wider region and around the world visit www.unicef.org.au

In response to the Beirut explosions, UNICEF Australia has launched a Lebanon Emergency Appeal to support the urgent needs of children and communities affected.