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Poverty, hunger and displacement await 100,000 children affected by Beirut explosion

According to new estimates from Unicef, 100,000 children have been directly affected by the Beirut port explosion on 4 August which left 140 people dead, 5,000 injured and hundreds missing. Around 80,000 children have been displaced with families affected in desperate need of support. Many children have also suffered trauma and remain in shock. 

“We are a long way from having comprehensive figures on deaths and injuries among children. For now, we know of at least three children killed and 31 children who required hospitalisation. Partners report approximately a thousand children among the injured,” 

Marixie Mercado, Unicef’s spokesperson in Geneva, said at a press briefing.

Over 120 schools were damaged or destroyed, leaving 55,000 children without classrooms and at least 12 primary healthcare facilities, maternal, immunisation and newborn centres in Beirut have been damaged, impacting services for nearly 120,000 people. Five out of seven Unicef-supported vaccine cold rooms were destroyed in the blast, affecting critical vaccination programmes. 

Even before the disaster, Lebanon’s hospitals were struggling to cope with a rise in Covid-19 infections. The country is also going through the worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, and people were having to deal with daily power cuts, a lack of safe drinking water and limited public healthcare.

“The Beirut explosions have created additional trauma for the children of Lebanon who also have to cope with the impact of a steep economic crisis and a raging pandemic,” 

said Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore. 

What’s next?

A Unicef tent has been set up in Beirut that is being used to provide psychological first aid to children and caregivers, and to refer those who need other services including shelter, water, food, or hygiene items. At least 675 children and caregivers have been reached so far with three additional tents being set up this week.

The longer-term consequences of the explosions on children are yet to be fully grasped, and the fall out will be felt for months and possibly even years to come. Assessments are underway for what a longer sustained response to Lebanon will look like – one that can respond to the multiple challenges the country faces: a huge refugee population, the economic and political crisis, Covid-19, and the destruction wrought by the explosion. 

Damaged health care facilities, schools and water connections will need to be rehabilitated, and emergency cash assistance for the most vulnerable families, including health and logistics workers, is also crucially needed.

The World Food Programme has started to bring in supplies of wheat through other ports in Lebanon, as the country’s main grain silo was also destroyed.

The UN Humanitarian Affairs office has released US$6 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to fund trauma care, support hospitals, repair damaged homes and provide logistical support. 

In a specially recorded audio message for UN News, Ms. Rochdi, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, gave an assurance that all funds that members of the public around the world feel moved to donate to the UN, and its NGO partners, 

“will go directly to the people who suffered from this horrendous blast”. 

Last week, Unicef announced an updated appeal to reach 100,000 children with support and assistance over the next three months to $46.7 million dollars. Ms Fore said:

“It has been nearly 10 days since the devastating explosions at Beirut’s port. The destruction, as you’ve all seen, is hard to fathom. And it happened in a context of an already collapsed economy, political instability and a surge in COVID-19 cases. From the outset, UNICEF has been with the Lebanese people, working to protect children and the health, water and education facilities that keep them safe.”

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