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The devastating explosion that rocked Beirut on August 4 — killing at least 140, wounding more than 5,000 and displacing 300,000 from their homes, including 100,000 children — was the latest chapter in an already terrible crisis unfolding in Lebanon. Economic collapse, food insecurity and a surge in COVID-19 cases have left children and families across the country in need of emergency assistance.
Families in Lebanon are facing multiple overlapping crises: an economy in freefall, food insecurity, COVID-19
Triggered by about 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical compound used in agricultural fertilizers and bombs, stored in Beirut's port district, the blast tore through the city, flipping cars and smashing windows. Hospitals, already overwhelmed, were inundated with injured victims. At least 12 health care facilities serving nearly 120,000 people were affected; a children's hospital specializing in the care of critically ill infants was destroyed, killing one newborn. Beirut's air is filled with dust; there are concerns that it may be toxic, particularly for children. The search for survivors continues.
UNICEF staff are helping authorities assess urgently needed medical and vaccine supplies, rushing bottles of water to first responders and residents in the Beirut port area and working with child protection colleagues to reunite children separated from their families and provide counseling to children traumatized by this latest catastrophe. Ten containers of personal protective equipment including hundreds of thousands of gloves, gowns and masks just procured by the Ministry of Public Health for the COVID response were destroyed. UNICEF is working with WHO to immediately replace these supplies.
UNICEF staff are also distributing vital supplies including critical medications, mattresses, blankets, towels and hygiene kits. Initial reports indicate that 120 public and private schools serving approximately 55,000 children were damaged in the blast; it will be crucial to rehabilitate them before the start of the new school year.
UNICEF staff are providing vital supplies and services to children and families in Lebanon
"The Beirut explosions have created additional trauma for the children of Lebanon who also have to cope with the impact of a steep economic crisis and a raging pandemic," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. "UNICEF and partners have been on the ground from day one, salvaging vaccine stockpiles, distributing water and helping clean up debris. We count on our donors to help us support the children and families who are affected by this tragedy and who will need all the support they can get to rebuild their lives."
UNICEF is estimating that it will need $46.8 million to support children and families in the aftermath of the explosion and the ongoing economic crisis.
Top photo: Wounded people are treated at a hospital following an explosion near the port in Beirut, Lebanon on August 4, 2020. © UNICEF/UNI356311/Amro/AFP