A Beirut family's slow recovery from the trauma

Although convinced she will never forget the terror she felt when massive explosions rocked Beirut, one year on, Faten and her three children are slowly recovering from the trauma.

UNICEF Lebanon
Faten Assaad Hanna and her 3 children
03 August 2021

Faten, a 36-year-old single mother is convinced she will never forget the terror she felt when massive explosions rocked Beirut, shattered her home and left her fearing her three children had died.  But she says that one year on, she and the children are slowly recovering from the trauma.

“The memory of that day can never leave me. I was away from home, away from my children,” says Faten, who at the time worked as a cleaner on the other side of the city. “My first and only thought was that my children must have died."

“I ran home as fast as I could. I felt my feet moving, but it was as if I was going nowhere," she recalls. When she finally reached her home, near the Port of Beirut, she found her children were physically unharmed.

“But my eldest daughter was pale and silent, my son wept and my youngest daughter clung to me for the next three hours."

Faten and her children were among the many families who quickly received psychological care from UNICEF's Lebanon-based child protection 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," she says, smiling.

Faten Assaad Hanna in her living room

Clea Estephan, a social worker with Himaya, remembers her first meeting with the family.

“They were all heavily affected," she says. “Twelve-year-old Marilyn was the most traumatized. Without immediate psychological first aid and continued support, it wouldn’t have been possible for her to have made any progress."

Yet, Marilyn’s recovery has been significant. Where, a year ago, she sat silently with her younger siblings at her mother's feet, today she’s eager to talk about her journey of the past 12 months.

“Whenever I hear an airplane flying over, I feel the same terror as I felt during the explosions,” Marilyn says. “I still remember people crying on that day, people frightened, the injured laying on the floor. But the support I received has helped me process things, and it’s also helped me support my younger brother and sister."

Alongside psychosocial support, the family received financial assistance, which helped renovate their damaged home.

Marilyne, 12 years old

“We worked with Marilyn for five months”, says Clea. “We also maintained very close contact with Faten. By supporting her directly and indirectly, we helped her succeed in managing her emotions and helped her be supportive towards her children."

“All of my children have shown great strength and have improved in every way. I see this every day. They’re grown from where they were, even from where I was, last summer,” Faten says. 

"The people of Lebanon did not deserve this"

A recent move to a new home has boosted the family’s morale and heralded a fresh start.

“It’s important now to look forward to the future, but we can’t ignore the past – it makes us who we are," says Marilyn. "Moving to our new home has been great. It’s a new beginning. We’ve made new friends. The support I received so soon after the explosions put me on the road to recovery."

Nonetheless, her mother’s anger remains intense. “My children had their childhoods stolen. Their innocence was denied. If it weren’t for the care we’ve received, I’d have been unable to offer them the support they needed. Everyone in the city is still affected by this event. We’re all still in the process of slow recovery, trying to help one another.”

Marilyn’s shakes her head and firmly declares, “The people of Lebanon did not deserve this."

UNICEF Lebanon