NEW YORK (September 4, 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 12-mile 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 neighborhoods 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 by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) thus far, approximately 80 percent of schools have sustained light to moderate damage and 20 percent 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 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, totaling 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 adequate quantity of 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 Harriri 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 affected population by UNICEF and partners;
- Provision of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to primary healthcare centers 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 $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.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to put children first. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. UNICEF USA supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when no children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.