Increased support vital to help children affected by Beirut explosions back to school, one month after devastating explosions
183 education facilities damaged or destroyed by the blasts, affecting over 77,000 children and youth as new school year approaches
BEIRUT, 4 September 2020 – Urgent action and increased support are vital to ensure that all children affected by the Beirut Explosions can access education when the new school year starts later this month, UNICEF said today, one month after two massive explosions tore through the city. At least 163 public and private schools were damaged by the explosions – impacting over 70,000 students and 7,600 teachers. In addition, 20 TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) schools were damaged, impacting approximately 7,300 students.
Ensuring children have access to education is a key priority for UNICEF. Education not only provides children with opportunities for the future, it can also provide children and their parents with a sense of normalcy, return a feeling of hope for the future and provide a safe space for children who are experiencing trauma. An estimated 600,000 children live within a 20-kilometre radius of the blast and could be suffering negative short-term and long-term psychological impacts.
To coincide with the launch of a short report -“Everything around me is in ruins” - highlighting the impact of the explosions on children and families in Beirut and UNICEF’s response to date, UNICEF called on the international community to urgently scale up support for education for children and families in Beirut.
“When disasters hit, education can provide a vital lifeline to children whose lives have been turned upside down, providing a safe-space when in school and a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos,” said UNICEF Lebanon Representative Yukie Mokuo. “Therefore, we are incredibly concerned by the substantial damage sustained by schools in the hardest-hit neighbourhoods and the impact this could have for children. School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic adds a further challenge but it is essential that we find urgent solutions to get children back to learning – also remotely- as soon as possible.”
Based on initial assessments of schools within a 20-kilometre radius of the blast by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education thus far, approximately 80 per cent of schools have sustained light to moderate damage and 20 per cent have sustained heavy damage. Resources are being rapidly mobilized to begin rehabilitation and get light to moderately damaged schools back in operation as soon as October together with UNESCO and other partners.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all schools plan to implement a blended approach involving both remote and face-to-face learning. However, these plans are further complicated by the impact of the blasts. As many homes were destroyed and families were forced to relocate, limited access to learning materials and connectivity need to be urgently addressed ahead of the imminent start of the 2020/21 school year. The most vulnerable children did not have learning materials and connectivity to start with and are at further risk of prolonged delay to access learning and even possibly drop out of school. Families who lost homes and livelihoods are also facing financial obstacles to enroll and support the education of their children.
UNICEF is working with its partners in areas affected by the explosions to support rehabilitation of damaged schools and replacement of furniture and equipment, promote school safety guidelines, train teachers in psychosocial support, and coordinate on the distribution of education supplies and early childhood development kits to teachers and caregivers. UNICEF is also looking for innovative solutions for remote learning with increased connectivity and access to electronic devices.
UNICEF’s response to meet other urgent needs of affected children has included so far:
- UNICEF has delivered 18 shipments of critical humanitarian supplies, totalling 67 tons, in addition to local procurement of emergency supplies.
- UNICEF and partners have re-connected over 155 buildings to the public water system and installed more than 870 water tanks in damaged households.
- 2,400 people assisted with temporary access to safe water for drinking and water for domestic use.
- Distributed 4,485 hygiene kits and 462 baby kits to affected families.
- 1,406 children, parents and caregivers provided with psychosocial support.
- Three children without parental or family care provided with appropriate alternative care arrangements.
- 308 children under 5 receiving essential nutrition supplements.
- Provision of two new solar fridges to be installed in Rafic Hariri Hospital and support on the maintenance requirements of two cold rooms in the hospital for vaccine storage.
- Assessment of the needs, for physical rehabilitation of 23 damaged health facilities.
- Collaborated with MEHE to support rapid assessment of damaged public schools and TVET institutions
- More than 430,000 fabric masks distributed to the affected population by UNICEF and partners;
- Provision of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to primary healthcare centres and dispensaries and providing immunization services.
- PPE order includes more than 3.5 million medical masks, 8,070 face shields, 124,810 gowns, 11,145 goggles, 7,646 thermometers, and 2.6 million pairs of gloves.
- More than 1,900 youth mobilized in response including cleaning, minor rehabilitation of households, and preparation and distribution of meals for vulnerable families.
“One month on from the devastating blasts, the needs continue to be acute and we need to look into the future,” said Mokuo. “With the length of time it may take to rebuild and rehabilitate damaged schools and replace lost furniture and school equipment, there is an urgent need to strengthen remote learning options for affected children. We must provide teachers with the training and support necessary to ensure children, especially those from the poorest affected areas, receive not only quality remote learning but also a level of psychosocial care to help heal their trauma.”
UNICEF requires US$50 million to respond to the immediate needs of children and families over the next three months. The response focuses on the psycho-social needs of children and the caregivers, 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.
Notes to editors:
Additional quotes from children affected:
“I feel different after the explosion. I’m always scared, and I still dream about the feeling of the blast. It keeps me awake at night.” Hanan, 8, Karantina
“I can’t remember when I last went to school, and now that my school is destroyed I have no idea when I will be able to go again. Coming to the safety park helps – with the team from UNICEF we play games and we learn some easy things together. It’s not the same as school, but when you’ve lost as much as we have in this neighbourhood, something like this becomes really important.” Abdulkarim, 10, Karantina
“My school was damaged by the explosion and I no one knows when it will reopen. I’ll miss going to school. I’ll miss studying, and I’ll miss spending time with the teachers.” Hanan, 8, Karantina
“I enjoy coming to the Geitawi safety park to play and learn with my friends. My school is now closed, and I miss going to school a lot! I miss seeing my teachers and I miss studying. I hope we will be able to go back to school soon.” Kevin, 8, Geitawi
“When I come to the safety park, I enjoy playing with other children. There are always people from UNICEF here, and they play games with us. They also teach us about coronavirus safety – I always wear my mask, wash and sterilise my hands, and sometimes wear gloves too.” Hanan, 8, Karantina
In coordination with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), the Education Sector, and Education donor group, the UNICEF Education Programme will focus on the following in the next 3 months:
- Support to the Sector-led Non-Formal Education Rapid Needs Assessment (including impact on infrastructure and program)
- Support to the MEHE-led educational institutions’ assessment and rehabilitation (minor and major impact).
- Provision of education supplies, in collaboration with other sector partners, such as Education kits (student kits & classroom kit) for children enrolled in affected educational institutions.
- Provisions of psychosocial support training for teachers/education personnel and social and emotional learning activities.)
- Support the rehabilitation of lightly and moderately and replacement of furniture and equipment damaged primary education institutions and TVET schools in coordination with the MEHE Beirut Blast Committee
- Provide electronic devices and connectivity to school students, especially this in the most vulnerable locations affected by the blast