Remarks by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore at the virtual briefing on the humanitarian situation in Lebanon
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NEW YORK, 10 August 2020 - "Everyone across the UNICEF family is shocked and saddened by last Tuesday’s explosions in Beirut.
"As others have mentioned, the human toll so far is heartbreaking.
"The impacts on children are grave — and growing.
"UNICEF is deeply concerned that children may be among the injured, missing or dead.
"And up to 100,000 girls and boys may be among those whose homes were damaged or destroyed.
"Traumatized. Shocked. Some are even separated from their families. Physical and psychological wounds that will be difficult to heal.
"Sadly, our team was not spared. One of our colleagues in Beirut lost his spouse, seven staff were injured, and dozens of our personnel’s homes were damaged.
"A grim reminder of the toll that this disaster has taken on all of our staff members and partners who have been working to support Lebanon for years.
"Their commitment to Lebanon has never waned.
"And our commitment to them remains as strong as ever.
"But the human cost of this disaster is met with an economic cost to a country already reeling from an economic collapse and growing cases of COVID-19.
"The explosions shattered many of the already fragile systems upon which children and their families rely.
"At least 16 primary healthcare facilities, and maternal, immunization and newborn centres have been damaged, affecting lifesaving services for nearly 126,000 people.
"Two hospitals in Beirut were destroyed altogether — as well as a Lebanese Red Cross centre, an entire ambulance fleet, and a children’s hospital in the Karantina area.
"Remaining hospitals are over-stretched and falling short of critical supplies.
"Ten containers of personal protective equipment were lost.
"And five out of seven UNICEF-supported cold rooms were destroyed in the blast, affecting critical vaccination programmes.
"But in the face of this unfolding horror for Beirut, the humanitarian system has come together quickly and in a coordinated way.
"And we’re surging-up our support and rapidly restarting operations on a number of fronts.
"Together, we’re working shoulder-to-shoulder with partner agencies to assess the full extent of the damage done to schools, water systems, and other infrastructure across Beirut.
"We’re supporting survivors with urgent health, water, protection services, counselling and other support.
"We’ve managed to help rescue about 90 per cent of the vaccines stored in the damaged port warehouse.
"And we’re working to scale-up emergency cash assistance to families in urgent need of housing and other essentials. We must never forget that this crisis is unfolding in the context of a collapsed economy. Families’ needs will no doubt multiply in the weeks and months ahead. We look forward to continued close coordination with our partners to support them.
"And throughout, we’re jointly supporting our colleagues and staff members across the humanitarian system at this challenging time. They represent the beating heart of our response, and we commit to supporting them as they carry out their lifesaving work.
"The road to recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction will be long.
"For all of our agencies, scaling-up an effective and sustained response depends on urgent global support and generosity.
"The reverberations of this disaster — economic and human — will be felt for some time to come. And we will come together as a global humanitarian family to address these needs — short and long term alike.
"UNICEF is proud to stand with our partner agencies and Member States as we support the people of Lebanon through this heartbreaking moment in its history. Thank you."
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