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.
"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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.DONATE NOW
Stay up-to-date on UNICEF's work in Australia and around the world
6 June 2023
Ukraine families face new threats after Kakhovka dam collapse
A devastating attack on the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine leaves families and children vulnerable to flooding and displacement.
30 May 2023
5 questions with our Ambassador Erica Packer
UNICEF Australia Early Years Ambassador Erica Packer tells us all about her experiences being a mum and what being a Global Parent means to her.
28 May 2023
In photos: A special visit to Borroloola with Pat Cummins
Test cricket captain and UNICEF Australia Ambassador Pat Cummins heads to the outback to meet some incredible kids through the Indi Kindi program in the Northern Territory.
27 May 2023
Busted. Eight myths about periods
What happens when you get your period? For many girls it depends largely on where they live.
26 May 2023
Children in emergencies: then and now
The need to support and protect the world’s children has only grown, and the photos captured by our teams worldwide echo images from when UNICEF was first established to help children, no matter where they are.
24 May 2023
From birth to rights: why birth registration matters
We won't stop until every child counts.
16 May 2023
100 days of recovery, survival and hope
17 May marks 100 days since the deadly earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria earlier this year. Amidst the aftermath of this disaster, the resilience of children shines through.
16 May 2023
In photos: 100 days of rebuilding lives in Türkiye and Syria
It has been 100 days since the deadly earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria devastated children and families. See their journey from heartbreak to hope thanks to the ongoing support of people like you.
16 May 2023
A mother's strength in the face of a cyclone
Millions of parents and children are at risk in Myanmar and Bangladesh in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha.
3 May 2023
Aussie kids ask big questions about global emergencies
UNICEF spokesperson, James Elder chats with kids about global emergencies and the impacts on children.
2 May 2023
Edwina Bartholomew and UNICEF talk maternal health challenges in Papua New Guinea
Sunrise host and Ambassador for UNICEF Australia, Edwina Bartholomew, speaks with UNICEF about pregnancy and birth for new mums in Papua New Guinea.