UNICEF in Emergencies & Humanitarian Action

Lebanese children face post-war challenges

UNICEF Image: Middle East crisis - Lebanon teenagers
© UNICEF video
Mariam Kamal El Dine, 15, looks around the grounds of her ruined school in Srifa, Lebanon.

By Lisa Pottger and Kitty Logan

NEW YORK, USA, 14 September 2006 – In the southern Lebanese town of Srifa, older generations have lived through many wars. But the recent, month-long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah was the first for for 15-year-old Mariam Kamal El Dine and her younger sisters.

Mariam and her family fled during the hostilities but are now back living in what’s left of the home where her parents and grandparents grew up. The house has no electricity. Outside, huge piles of rubble, broken glass and twisted metal are everywhere.

Although the family survived the ordeal, trauma still shows in Mariam’s face and in her voice. “We feel miserable and emotionally drained,” she says. “We have been separated from our friends.”

Meeting basic family needs

Adds Mariam’s sister Sara, 14: “Srifa has suffered vast destruction. Before the war we used to go to the town centre. There would be many people there. Now if you go there, you don’t feel like walking around.”

For Mariam’s parents, even meeting basic family needs is a daily challenge. The small generator isn’t strong enough to power a refrigerator, so meat and other foods spoil quickly.

UNICEF Image: Middle East crisis - Lebanon teenagers
© UNICEF video
“It’s painful to see this. We built our dreams here,” says Mariam Kamal El Dine of the damage done in Srifa during the war between Israel and Hezbollah.

As grim as their situation is, Mariam’s family has been relatively lucky. Some 15,000 homes – including at least half of those in Srifa – were destroyed in the bombing of southern Lebanon. Of the nearly 1 million people who fled during the war, more than a quarter remain displaced – either because they lost their homes or because unexploded munitions and other dangerous conditions make it impossible to go back.

School term postponed

Mariam’s school was also badly damaged – as were about 50 schools in the region. For now, classes that were to have started in mid-September have been postponed until the building can be repaired.

UNICEF Lebanon’s back-to-school campaign aims to have 350,000 children in classes by October 18. Mariam hopes she will be one of them. She wants to be a journalist one day.

“Some of our dreams and aspirations have been shattered,” she says, “but I am sure many things will change in our future.”





12 September 2006:
UNICEF’s Rachel Warden reports on a Lebanese family, displaced during the recent war, returning to their devastated community.
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