Just after 6pm on Tuesday 4 August, a catastrophic explosion tore through Beirut, leaving at least 100 dead and more than 4,000 injured. The blast destroyed and damaged buildings across the city, leaving some 300,000 people without homes. Children are among the dead, injured and traumatized. Already over-stretched hospitals and health services have been overwhelmed, and critical infrastructure – including Beirut’s main port – has been destroyed or disrupted.
The explosion could not have come at a worse time for Lebanon’s children and families, the latest crisis in already challenging circumstances. Since October 2019, Lebanon has faced dramatic and deteriorating economic and socio-political challenges, amidst the country’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, and against the economic impact of the longstanding Syrian conflict. Even before the impact of COVID-19, families were struggling in the face of devaluing currency, job losses and rapid inflation, together with daily power cuts, a lack of safe drinking water and limited public healthcare. Since last September, prices for basic items such as food and shelter have increased by 169 per cent, dramatically reducing families’ purchasing power and forcing hard choices between life’s essentials. And that was before the impacts of COVID-19 and associated restrictions.
The combined impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and the economic freefall on people’s livelihoods is catastrophic, particularly for the most vulnerable. In the months to come families face worsening hunger and food insecurity. Many families are reducing their food intake as a result of rising poverty. One in five Lebanese families and 33 percent of the Syrian families missed meals or went without food for a whole day and 50 per cent of Lebanese, 63 per cent of Palestinians and 75 per cent of Syrians are worried they would not have enough to eat. Now, the Beirut explosion threatens to worsen this food insecurity, driving families to the brink: Lebanon imports around 80 per cent of its food, and the blast has destroyed not only the country’s main shipping port, but its main grain silo. Lebanon's economy minister has reported that the country has enough grain reserves for "a bit less than a month" and that the country needed at least three months' worth of grain stored for its food security.
Right now UNICEF, is on the ground preparing to support children and their families but we can’t do this without you. UNICEF is estimating that we will need $4.4 million to provide both immediate assistance to the affected children, and to start the planning to support the Ministries of Education and Health as they deal with the 34 highly damaged schools and 12 health care centres that have already been identified as destroyed. For right now, we are coordinating very closely with authorities and partners on the ground to respond to needs as they emerge, including of health and other front-line workers.
We urgently need your help now to provide critical interventions and life-saving assistance to children affected and their families. Your donation will make it possible that children in Beirut receive the assistance and care they need to recover from this devastating event in the most challenging times.
Thank you for standing with Lebanon’s children today.
We thank you,
The UNICEF Team