Beirut Port Explosion: UNICEF delivers 10,000 hygiene and baby care kits to vulnerable families
A key platform of UNICEF integrated emergency response was to help ensure the health and safety of vulnerable children and families through the provision of hygiene and baby care kits
The Beirut port explosion of August 4 killed almost 200 people and injured more than 7,000. As the impact hit the heart of the city’s cultural, commercial and touristic districts it left thousands homeless, thousands jobless, and many more disconnected from essential services including water and electricity. In the aftermath of the explosion, UNICEF set to work with its partners in Lebanon on the implementation of an integrated emergency response. A key platform of this response was to help ensure the health and safety of vulnerable children and families through the provision of hygiene and baby care kits.
For Abbas Safieddine, WASH Officer at UNICEF Lebanon, it was essential for the care of the affected that UNICEF would be among the first to step forward in support of Beirut’s vulnerable citizens. “After the explosion we saw that homes were destroyed, and many families lost all their possessions”, he says. With many families disconnected from clean water too, the risks to the most vulnerable – particularly young children – of preventable disease and illness has increased. “The hygiene kits provide the minimum they need to help them survive”, adds Abbas.
With 10,000 kits procured in support of Beirut’s affected families, more than 5,000 have already been handed over during a well-planned operation by local partners including the Lebanese Red Cross, Medair, Solidarités International, and Concern Worldwide. Going door-to-door through the city’s shattered streets, vulnerable families have been swiftly supported through this and other UNICEF initiatives.
The hygiene kits include essential items to support a family of five for up to one month. Within each pack are dental, personal and feminine hygiene items. A separate baby care kit includes diapers, creams, and basic items of clothing.
In addition to door-to-door distribution, temporary collection points have also been established in areas of the city. One of the first to arrive at today’s Bourj Hummoud distribution point was Sevag Armanac Kimigian. A soldier with the Lebanese Armed Forces, he’s also the father of two children. Although all unhurt, the explosion devastated their home, and has added further to the burden of everyday life is the country.
"This help from UNICEF is the first assistance we’ve received. But even small things like this make me feel better"
“Life in Lebanon was hard before the explosion and now, for everyone, it got even more difficult to survive. I’m a soldier in the Lebanese army serving my country, and I struggle to manage with my small family. This help from UNICEF is the first assistance we’ve received. But even small things like this make me feel better - it gives me hope that we will survive”.
One of more than a hundred families collecting hygiene and baby kits this morning, he is joined in the queue by mother Arez Manukian. With a six-year-old who remains affected by memories of the explosion, she says, “The day after the blast I received a call from a UNICEF partner checking on us. I was able to reassure them that we were all unhurt, and said they should look after other families who needed urgent help. It is enough that they thought of us – not for me, but for my children.
“Today’s hygiene and baby kits are the first assistance I’ve received. No one is going to die because of hunger caused by this emergency, but a practical kit such is this will make a huge difference to my children”.
Today’s Lebanese youth find themselves in extraordinarily difficult situations too. 21-year-old Cecile Ezmelian should be preparing to start a new academic year at university. Instead, she’s spending her days at home caring for her sick mother and grandmother.
"The support from UNICEF makes me feel less alone – and it inspires hope for the future"
“They were both suffering from illnesses prior to the explosion, but things got worse for them afterwards. Both with high blood pressure, my mother’s illness has got so severe that she’s been unable to leave her bed since August 4”, Cecile explained, adding “my wish is for Lebanon to rebuild and be better. To be honest, I have little hope that this will happen - but I haven’t lost hope altogether. The support from UNICEF makes me feel less alone – and it inspires hope for the future. We all need some support at times like this, and it has been very encouraging to see UNICEF working so hard to take care of the Lebanese people today”.
As Lebanon moves from the initial emergency response to what will prove to be a long-term rebuilding of Beirut and its people, UNICEF is committed to working in coordination with the government of Lebanon and alongside local partners to ensure the care and safety of the most vulnerable, and that their urgent needs are met.