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Out of the ashes

10 September 2020, Action for Change

Hope for Beirut after the shocking blasts 

It’s been nearly two months since the explosions that tore through Lebanon’s capital Beirut. And while many families remain in dire need, Save the Children is stepping up its effort to help families get back on their feet. 

Generous supporters have been vital to supporting children through the crisis. In the first few days, they helped us deliver immediate life-saving support, provide psychological first aid for children, and assist families with temporary shelter for those who had lost their homes, as well as distributing meal and hygiene kits. 

One of the most critical tasks was reuniting children and families that were separated as a result of the blast. It’s a very complex process, but one that Save the Children has a lot of experience in, and all possible efforts were focused in this area. 

We knew children would continue to be mentally and emotionally badly affected, so we set up child-friendly spaces to help them play safely and begin to process what they had been through. 

A birthday like no other

Sonia was celebrating her eighth birthday with her mother Georgie and father Johnny on 4 August. After cutting the cake, and receiving her presents, her father left to work in the family-owned restaurant while Georgie and Sonia went to share some birthday cake with their neighbour. 

Then the explosion happened. Johnny kept calling his wife to check on them but the call kept dropping out. He ran home to make sure they were alive. He found Sonia crying hysterically in her mother’s lap, calling for him.

I was crying and crying. I was afraid about my father. I thought our shop was hit. I thought he’d been hurt by the glass.

Sonia

Luckily, their home was only mildly damaged with some broken windows. But both Georgie and Johnny's worry about the psychological and emotional impact this trauma has left on their daughter.

A place of safety

Generous supporters have helped us be there for Sonia and her family, at a time, Georgie says, when they have needed it most. 

“Initially the kids were depressed because of coronavirus, and being home, and it has been a while for them without seeing their friends. The kids were psychologically exhausted.”

She says Sonia is still traumatised by the blasts. “She doesn’t want to talk about that incident, she says, ‘get it out of your mind, get it out of your mind.’ Actually her voice has become higher, maybe because of the amount of noise she heard, her voice tone is higher.”

The child-friendly spaces Sonia attended started to bring her out of that headspace. 

It is the children who have been most affected. All the children I know are in need for someone to focus on them, to change their mood. It is a very good thing for them, really, thank you very much. What you did is so nice, and the kids need it.

Sonia


Sonia was able to play and laugh again after the explosions in Beirut hit on her eighth birthday.
Photo: Tom Nicholson / Save The Children

 

What’s next for Beirut? 

The bleak reality is that Lebanon was already struggling, before the pandemic and before the blasts. The ongoing economic crisis that Lebanon has been experiencing has taken its toll. A quarter of the households affected in the blast had or have no member with an income, with only 6 per cent of the families maintaining any savings.

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 of the families spoken to by Save the Children reported that they have on average two members of the household with chronic illness or in critical medical condition.

It’s clear more is needed for the children of Beirut while economic insecurity, COVID-19 and the impact of the explosions continue to affect their life. But with the generous help of our supporters, we will continue to reach more children giving them hope, safety and security, to help them regain a sense of normalcy in their new extraordinary world. 

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