Rebuilding Beirut's health

The explosions devastated a large swathe of the city. UNICEF's humanitarian response includes a strong focus on the health and nutrition sector, which was already in crisis before the disaster

UNICEF Lebanon
The Karantina public hospital,  Now partly rehabilitated following its destruction by the August 4, 2020 Beirut Port explosions
UNICEF2021/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon
03 August 2021

The explosions that tore through Beirut on August 4, 2020 devastated a large swathe of the city, destroying lives, homes and infrastructure, and exacerbating an already dire economic situation. UNICEF's humanitarian response has included a strong focus on the health and nutrition sector, which was already in crisis before the disaster.

Within hours of the deadly explosions in the Port of Beirut, UNICEF jumped into action, providing life-saving support to affected families. While the emergency response has now shifted to a reconstruction and response to basic needs phase, the needs are still huge, and work is continuing.

For the past year, UNICEF and partners, with donors' generous support, rebuilt health care facilities, schools and water supply services; provided emergency cash assistance; distributed essential nutrition and hygiene supplies; provided psychosocial support; and delivered  counselling support for pregnant and lactating women, caregivers of children under 5 on infant and young child feeding practices. Restoring damaged health facilities was a top priority in order to ensure children and pregnant women have access to essential health and nutrition services.

The Karantina area, which houses many of the city's most vulnerable residents, was among the hardest hit. Its hospital, public healthcare centre (PHC), and the national drug warehouse were all destroyed.

UNICEF staff on August 6, 2020, assessing the damage caused by the Beirut Port explosions to the national drug warehouse and its refrigeration units in Karantina
UNICEF2021/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon

Restoring health services for the most vulnerable​​​

The main hospital in the area – the only one that provided neonatal intensive care – was destroyed. The state hospital is a refuge for the most marginalized people requiring medical care, and a critical focal point of the neighbourhood’s health infrastructure, as well as the home of Lebanon’s national childhood vaccination programmes.

By rehabilitating the Karantina Hospital, UNICEF and partners aim to restore access to essential health-care services for the most vulnerable of the city’s residents and ensure that women and children receive high-quality and uninterrupted health care despite Lebanon's huge economic crisis.

Through an emergency project, UNICEF, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and partners, was able to rapidly save 1,748,660 doses of vaccines. The explosions devastated the national health sector's Central Supply Warehouse in Karantina and its refrigeration units used for vaccine storage, putting the entire stock of vaccines at risk.

Some of these vaccines were later used in the National Measles Campaign, the first immunization campaign to be launched in Lebanon during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The neonatal intensive care unit at the Karantina hospital on August 6, 2020
UNICEF2021/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon

The facility and the adjoining Karantina Public Healthcare Centre (PHC) are now fully operational, as are two other community PHCs.

With UNICEF support, the Karantina PHC was able to open its doors in early February, offering  subsidized medical examinations and treatment. Specialties include public health, mental health, paediatrics, gynaecology, cardiology, diabetes, renal care, gastroenterology, otolaryngology, dermatology, and general and orthopaedic surgery.

In addition to laboratory tests, sonography, electrocardiograms, arteriography and x-rays – including scans, mammography, echography and MRIs –  are covered under the programme.

With access to essential health care that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive, the lives of many residents have already improved.

A destroyed room in Karantina Governmental Hospital
UNICEF2020/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon

“Trying to find enough money to cover my expenses is not easy in today’s Lebanon. I am delighted to have been able to check on my baby through this programme," a 35-year-old woman, said following a free pregnancy ultrasound scan at the Karantina. "I thank God that someone is thinking of us and helping us."

Rebuilding Beirut and lifting its spirit is a long-term commitment. Today and every day, UNICEF continues to stand with Lebanon’s families and to stand together with every child in Lebanon.