Geneva Palais briefing note on situation for children affected by Beirut explosions and UNICEF response

On 6 August 2020, UNICEF employees engage in the safe transfer of vaccines from a damaged warehouse of the Ministry of Public Health, located in the port area of Beirut, Lebanon. Two days prior, the warehouse, along with numerous other buildings, was damaged by an enormous explosion that took over 150 lives and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Despite the explosion and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines remain available for children in Lebanon.
UNICEF/UNI356604/Choufany
On 6 August 2020, UNICEF employees engage in the safe transfer of vaccines from a damaged warehouse of the Ministry of Public Health, located in the port area of Beirut, Lebanon. Two days prior, the warehouse, along with numerous other buildings, was damaged by an enormous explosion that took over 150 lives and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Despite the explosion and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines remain available for children in Lebanon.

GENEVA, 7 August 2020 – This is a summary of what was said by Marixie Mercado, UNICEF spokesperson in Geneva – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

We have some very preliminary numbers and findings from the assessments that are still underway.

  • According to the last update on available figures, UNICEF estimates that up to 100,000 children might be among those whose homes were damaged or destroyed. Some households have limited water and electricity.
  • The Assameh Birth and Beyond Pediatric Unit in Karantina Hospital, which had a specialized unit treating newborns who require critical care, was totally destroyed. Sixteen other primary healthcare centres serving some 160,000 people have sustained some damage.
  • 10 containers of personal protective equipment including hundreds of thousands of gloves, gowns, 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.
  • Five out of seven vaccine “cold rooms” at a warehouse in the port whose maintenance is supported by UNICEF were destroyed. All of the vaccines were safely moved to other cold rooms the very same night of the blasts. Supplies of diluent were destroyed, but it is not yet clear how much.
  • We have initial reports of over 120 public and private schools that have sustained damage ranging from windows blown out to more fundamental infrastructure damage. These schools serve approximately 55,000 children and it will be crucial to rehabilitate them before the start of the new school year.
  • The air is suffused with dust and there are concerns that this may be toxic, especially for children.
  • There has been a significant increase in COVID infections in the last two days. Yesterday saw a record number of infections – 255. The total number of deaths so far is 70, and the total number of confirmed infections is 5672. The areas around the blast are among those with the most active clusters and community transmission. It is impossible for those affected to practice safe distancing – there is a desperate need for masks – but for most people right now COVID is not top of mind.
  • UNICEF’s immediate priorities are to:
    • Replace damaged PPE and other medical products and procure critical supplies the health services require right now.
    • Distribute water and hygiene materials.
    • Reunite children separated from their families and provide psychosocial support for those dealing with shock, trauma and bereavement.
    • Work with volunteer youth to provide affected families with support for cleaning and cooking.
    • Emergency cash assistance for the most vulnerable families, including health and logistics workers, is needed. And damaged health care facilities and schools will need to be rehabilitated
  • The needs are immediate and they are huge. UNICEF’s preliminary – and I stress preliminary — funding appeal is for $8.25 million.
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