Children affected by Beirut explosions in need of psychological support as 50 per cent show signs of trauma

Press briefing by Marixie Mercado, UNICEF spokesperson in Geneva

26 August 2020
Բեյրությում փլուզված հիվանդանոցներից մեկի սենյակն է։
© UNICEF/UNI356606/Choufany

GENEVA/BEIRUT, 21 AUGUST 2020 – We have an update on the ongoing assessments and response work in Beirut. First, on psychosocial support, which is a major programmatic priority: In a rapid needs assessment conducted by UNICEF and partners, which took place between 10 and 17 August, half of respondents reported that children in their households were showing changes in behavior or signs of trauma or extreme stress following the explosions. These behaviours and symptoms can include severe anxiety; quietness or withdrawing from parents and families; nightmares and trouble sleeping; and aggressive behavior. One-third of households also reported negative symptoms among adults.

It is clear the needs are immense. Many children will require urgent and sustained psychosocial support to address the trauma of the explosions. UNICEF’s psychosocial support comes in the form of psychosocial kits for children and parents; setting up child-friendly spaces in affected areas; and the provision of more specialized, intensive, and longer-term support for those who need it.

A little more on the wider impact of the blasts. According to the latest information:

  • An estimated 5 per cent of buildings in affected areas have been disconnected from the main water network. Households still have no clean water supply due to damage to the connections between water sources and buildings and within buildings;
  • Waste management services are limited and delayed, increasing the risk of water borne diseases;
  • Six major hospitals and 20 clinics sustained partial or heavy structural damage, reducing collective health capacity by 500 hospital beds;
  • The Ministry of Education and Higher Education reports 159 public and private schools and 20 Technical and Vocational schools serving 50,000 children and young people have sustained minor to significant damage.

And some of what we have been able to do so far, with partners:

  • Reach hundreds of children with psycho-social first aid, and hundreds of caregivers with health counseling and referrals;
  • Re-connected over 60 buildings to the public water system and installed 109 water tanks in damaged households;
  • Relocated 98 per cent of the medications and vaccines from the Central Drug Warehouse and distributed them to Primary Health Care Centers, dispensaries, UNHCR vaccination sites, and other immunization points;  
  • Repaired two vaccine cold rooms and two solar fridges, and installed a generator at the main public hospital.
  • Brought in three shipments of humanitarian supplies including $3.5 milllion in PPE supplies.
  • And, supported over 1,100 young people to clean and do minor repairs of damaged homes, and to distribute food and masks.

UNICEF requires US$46.7 million to respond to the immediate needs of children and families over the next three 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.

We have received US$1.3 million, with more in the pipeline. We are grateful for these timely and flexible contributions and further support is vital - https://help.unicef.org/beirut-explosions

Media contacts

Zara Sargsyan
Communication Officer
UNICEF Armenia
Tel: 37477232169
Tel: 37410580174

About UNICEF

UNICEF works to ensure that every child in Armenia is cherished, nurtured and cared for. Building on more than 70 years of global experience and 25 years of achieving results for children in Armenia, UNICEF is committed to improve the lives of the most vulnerable children living in poverty and isolation. From the maternity ward to the end of high school, UNICEF teams up with partners so that all children and families in Armenia benefit from improved policies, services and facilities across the country.

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