A child wearing facepaint and a mask plays with a Save the Children worker.

Sonia (8) plays in the pop-up Child Friendly Space in Beirut, after the explosion during her 8th birthday party. Photo Credit: Tom Nicholson / Save The Children

Two Weeks on: Families in Beirut's Disaster Zone are Still in Dire Need of Support to Rebuild and Recover

Fairfield, Conn. (August 19, 2020) – Two weeks after the explosion that tore through Lebanon’s capital Beirut, many vulnerable families in the affected areas are still in dire need of support, Save the Children warned today.

Families are still living in houses with structural damage, with limited access to basic healthcare and other services.

To help those most in need, Save the Children has stepped up its response in Beirut. It has supported 734 households through shelter kits for damaged houses, opened child-friendly spaces where children can safely play and interact with friends, helped 245 adults and children through psychological first aid, and provided 4,800 hot meals and food parcels for the most vulnerable.

Even though many young volunteers, grassroots organizations and NGOs have worked hard to support affected communities, the scale of the destruction and needs are so large that more support is urgently needed to ensure families have a safe place to live and access to medical and psychological care, Save the Children said.

An assessment carried out by Save the Children among 470 households in ten of the most affected areas of Beirut shows the grim reality in the aftermath of the explosion. The assessment, conducted a week after the explosion, covered neighborhoods within a 2.5 mile radius from the Port of Beirut. The data showed that:

  • One in four families (24%) had no access to healthcare, with many having to skip routine treatments or unable to obtain medicines.
  • 17 percent of the homes had collapsed ceilings, 11 percent had damaged beams and 26 percent experienced damage to the balcony.
  • 18 children had been temporarily separated from their parents or were unaccompanied.
  • 32 percent of families reported the need for psychosocial support to help parents and children cope with their experiences.

These bleak realities are the result of the explosion, compounded with the impact of the economic crisis that Lebanon has been experiencing for almost a year, the assessment showed. A quarter of the households affected in the blast had or have no member with an income, with only 6 percent of the families maintaining any savings.

Sonia, 8, had just blown out the candles on her birthday cake and had taken a piece to her neighbor, when the explosion happened on August 4.

“I was crying and crying, I was afraid, I was afraid about my father,” she said. “[At home], the wall up there was broken, and … this is the kitchen and that’s the living room, they are both [damaged].”

Sonia’s mother Georgie said: “Sonia wanted to get downstairs just to see if her father was alright. She had an extreme crying episode. It passed, but… these are things that can change children’s psychological state. She doesn’t want to talk about that issue, she says, ’get it out of your mind, get it out of your mind’. All the children I know are in need for someone to think about them, to change their mood.”

Overwhelmed hospitals and unaffordable private healthcare have contributed to people not receiving urgent or routine medical treatment. Pregnant women, children and people with disabilities are in a particularly vulnerable position. More than half (55%) of the families/people interviewed by Save the Children reported that they have on average two persons in the household with chronic illness or in critical medical condition.

Juliet, an 84-year-old resident of Beirut, said: “I have never seen damage like this. To see my country damaged like this is terrible. Isn’t it terrible for the young men and women who were killed?... Those people whose houses were destroyed and were displaced.

“My grandchild now doesn’t let his mother go out; he doesn’t let his father leave. His mother has to go to work, he doesn’t let her, he says ‘What if you died mom? Who will raise us?’. A 9-year-old boy, isn’t it terrible? I still don’t get what happened.”

Save the Children is concerned that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Lebanon will lead to more immediate needs re-surfacing, including the most vulnerable populations in Lebanon.

Jad Sakr, Save the Children’s Country Director in Lebanon, said: “The explosion did not differentiate between rich and poor – everyone was impacted. Now that the dust has settled, the disastrous consequences for families in Beirut are starting to unfold. Many can’t afford to fix their damaged homes.

“People are telling us that their daily life has now become about prioritizing what to spend the little money they have on: food, repairs or medication for their children, Sakr continued. “Save the Children’s teams, and other organizations and volunteers, are working around the clock to support families to ensure they don’t have to make those difficult decisions. This is a national disaster that will need the efforts of everyone involved to put people on the first step on the long road back to recovery – the hard work has just begun.”

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