In a single moment, the force of the Beirut explosions lay waste to homes, offices and livelihoods. Almost 200 people were killed, thousands injured, and an estimated 100,000 children are now without homes.

In time and with sufficient funding, what can be rebuilt will be rebuilt. We must ensure children and their families are supported to recover from the psychological effects of this catastrophe.

Ten-year-old Mira was at home when the Beirut port blast hit her house. 

“I was showering at the time and, when the impact hit, the first aid box exploded on my head. Then the door blew off its hinges. I remember that I just started screaming. My mother ran to me, pressed hard on my wound and gave me a drink of water so I wouldn’t faint.” 

Calling an ambulance was out of the question – even if they could have got a line, the emergency services were overwhelmed, and every serviceable vehicle was already deployed. 

Her father took her and others to a nearby hospital in his van – some died of their injuries on the way. 
Ten-year-old Mira was at home when the Beirut port blast hit her house. © UNICEF/UNI360451/El Hage


 
"People in the truck were screaming for
help, and it was very upsetting to see
some die before even being treated.
"  
“There were whole families with me where mother, father, and children were all bleeding on the floor of the van,” says Mira, 10. 

“My father was hurt too. I hope he recovers enough to be able to work, and then I can go back to school – I want the opportunity to study hard enough to become a doctor one day.”

UNICEF is working with local partners to provide psychosocial support for children like Mira, helping them cope with bereavement and the trauma of the events they witnessed.
 
 
Lebanese mother-of-three Faten during a visit from a child protection team at her home in Beirut, Lebanon. UNICEF with local partner Himaya are providing her with psychosocial support after the catastrophic explosion in Beirut. © UNICEF/UNI360107/Francis

Mother Faten will never forget the moment the explosions ripped through the city of Beirut at 6.07pm on August 4.  

 
"I was away from home, away from my
children. My first and only thought was
that my children must have been killed.
"  
A single mother with three young children between the ages of four and 11, she works several cleaning jobs in order to earn money to provide for her family.

“I ran home as fast as I could. I felt my feet moving, but it was as if I was going nowhere.”

“When I finally got home and saw my children were unhurt, I couldn’t take my eyes off them.”

“My eldest daughter was pale and silent, my son wept, and my youngest daughter clung to me for the next three hours.”
 
Faten reunited with her children after the Beirut blast. © UNICEF/UNI360109/Francis

A child of Lebanon’s civil war period herself, Faten feels the events of last week will be more difficult to manage than those of the war. “This is a far greater challenge… back then I had no children, no responsibility. With children, you feel everything differently and see the world through their eyes.”

For Faten and her three children, the trauma of August 4 will take some time to heal.

So far, our teams have reached over 750 children with psychosocial first aid, through face-to-face sessions, phone calls and door-to-door visits, and supported around 600 caregivers, like Faten, with counseling. 

Faten already feels cause to thank UNICEF and our implementing partner Himaya: “They were the first people to call us after the blast. The only people to call and check on my children and to ask if we needed any assistance. Since that day, they have been here for us, making my hope for a return to normal life a little more achievable.”
 
Children play games out the front of a UNICEF tent. UNICEF and partners are providing psychosocial support to address emotional and social needs of children and caregivers affected by the catastrophic blast. © UNICEF Lebanon


Three crises at once


The devastating explosions in Beirut add to an already terrible crisis for the people of Lebanon. 

Since October 2019, Lebanon has faced dramatic and deteriorating economic and socio-political challenges, amidst the country’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, and against the economic impact of the longstanding Syrian conflict. 

Even before the impact of COVID-19, families were struggling in the face of devaluing currency, job losses and rapid inflation, together with daily power cuts, a lack of safe drinking water and limited public healthcare. Many families are already reducing their food intake as a result of rising poverty. 

Now, the Beirut explosions threaten to worsen this food insecurity, driving families to the brink: Lebanon imports around 80 per cent of its food, and the blast has destroyed not only the country’s main shipping port, but also its main grain silo.
 
 
Just after 6pm on Tuesday, 4 August, a catastrophic explosion tore through Beirut, leaving almost 200 dead and more than 4,000 injured. The blast destroyed and damaged buildings across the city, leaving some 300,000 people without homes. © UNICEF/UNI357480/OCHA


UNICEF response 


Following the blasts, UNICEF immediately mobilised teams, providing water to frontline responders, supporting reunification efforts for separated children and families, and rapidly removing vital vaccines from a damaged warehouse at the port. 

Since then, our teams have been working closely with local civil society organisations to deliver ongoing support to children and families affected by the crisis. No UNICEF funding is going to any government ministry, however an activity partnership previously arranged with the Ministry of Education is being re-evaluated in light of the disaster in Beirut.

 
UNICEF and implementing partners install water tanks in houses affected by the devastating explosion, ensuring children and their families have access to safe drinking water. © UNICEF Lebanon


Now, UNICEF’s immediate priorities are to replace damaged and destroyed personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, distribute water and hygiene materials, help affected children cope with bereavement and the trauma of the events they witnessed by providing psychosocial support services, and mobilise and support youth in the rebuilding efforts. 

The needs in Lebanon are immense. If you can please consider supporting children affected by this tragedy. 

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