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

This is a summary of what was said by Marixie Mercado, UNICEF spokesperson in Geneva – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

21 August 2020
On 8 August 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon, UNICEF personnel and partners join efforts with local residents to clean up the streets in the areas most devastated by the massive explosion that took place on 4 August.
UNICEF/UNI357472/Gorriz/UN
On 8 August 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon, UNICEF personnel and partners join efforts with local residents to clean up the streets in the areas most devastated by the massive explosion that took place on 4 August.

GENEVA/BEIRUT, 21 AUGUST 2020GENEVA/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 behaviour 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 behaviour. 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 explosion. 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 counselling 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 million 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.

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*Rapid assessments are being conducted by UNICEF partners on an ongoing basis to quickly assessing the needs of people or families who approach organisations on the ground for assistance or support. The results included 940 respondents who were interviewed in Karantina, Geitawi and Basta neighbourhoods between 10 and 17 August.

Media Contacts

Joe English
UNICEF New York
Tel: +1 917 893 0692
Marixie Mercado
UNICEF Geneva
Tel: +41 79 559 7172

Multimedia content

Lebanon. UNICEF employees help with the safe transfer of vaccines from a damaged warehouse in the port area of Beirut.
UNICEF employees help with the safe transfer of vaccines from a damaged warehouse in the port area of Beirut.

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