Although a month has passed since the giant explosion in the port of Beirut, the psychological trauma of children in the most affected neighborhoods is still very much alive and deeply affects their daily lives. Sleep disorders, fear to fall asleep, enuresis, irritability, tendency to isolation, loss of appetite, apathy: these are just some of the disorders reported by the more than 300 families that the staff of Terre des Hommes met during this period for an assessment of the needs of the most vulnerable population. "A devastating scenario has emerged," explains Ilaria Masieri, head of projects in Lebanon. "Almost all parents have told us that they have found reactions in their children that they had never seen before, and that in the vast majority of cases they do not know how to deal with. More than 87% said they needed psychosocial support and 41% asked us for immediate psychological help, as proof of the gravity of the situation, which risks marking these young lives forever. More than half of these families are Syrian refugees, who have already had to endure the hardships of war and the pain of exile. It is therefore essential that the international community does not forget this humanitarian emergency, which unfortunately is grafted on to an economic and political crisis, but also a health crisis, given the vigorous increase in Covid-19's contagion, of immense dimensions. We urgently need to find the necessary resources to ensure these children fundamental rights such as protection, education and care".
Terre des Hommes, a non-governmental organization engaged for 60 years in the protection of children, was active in the days immediately after the disaster by organizing psychosocial recreational activities in the areas most affected by the explosion. “In these days we are strengthening our interventions for the protection of boys and girls to provide adequate support to the most vulnerable families, where there are children with special needs, disabled or at risk of dropping out of school, also to prevent phenomena such as child labor and early marriages”, adds Masieri. “In fact, if in a first period psychosocial support will focus on the elaboration of trauma and the development of effective mechanisms to cope with anxiety experiences in children, our intervention has as its ultimate goal the improvement of living conditions of families, through access to quality social and educational services”.
The intervention methods are complicated by the ever-changing health situation, given the increase in Covid-19 contagions that has led the authorities to set up new lockdowns, but operators are trained to provide assistance both remotely and in individual or collective meetings, depending on needs, as they have already done since March for the other projects underway in the country. "We have drawn up a two-stage response plan that takes into account the immediate needs but also the support needed for the reintegration of displaced families within their communities of origin and for a gradual return to normality," Masieri points out.
"Our intervention also provides for the payment of cash contributions to families in difficulty, to cover the most urgent needs, the distribution of hygiene kits for mothers and children and personal protective equipment. In all, the beneficiaries of the first actions we are implementing will be almost 3,500, but the needs of the population are enormous, if we think that more than 300,000 people are temporarily displaced due to the explosion," emphasizes Masieri.
In Karantina, one of the neighborhoods most devastated by the explosion, Terre des Hommes is working to give back to the community a playground and a library, severely damaged by the explosion.
To identify more precisely the needs of the children Terre des Hommes conducted an assessment of over 300 families (including 935 minors) who at the time of the explosion lived in the neighborhoods closest to the port. In the coming days, the full document of the assessment - the first to investigate the psychological and psychosocial consequences of the explosion on children - will be available on the Terre des Hommes website (www.terredeshommes.it).
Terre des Hommes Italia has been present in Lebanon for 15 years with dozens of interventions to support the education and protection of vulnerable Lebanese children and Syrian, Syriopalestinian and Palestinian refugee children. With the Back to the Future project alone, financed by the Madad fund of the European Union, it has restructured 8 schools and brought more than 25,000 children back to school.
Since 1960 Terre des Hommes has been at the forefront of protecting children around the world from violence, abuse and exploitation and providing every child with school, informal education, medical care and food. Today Terre des Hommes is present in 76 countries with 945 projects for children. The Terre des Hommes Foundation Italy is part of the Terre des Hommes International Federation, works in partnership with EU DG ECHO and is accredited by the European Union, the UN, USAID and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Italian Agency for International Cooperation (AICS). For information: www.terredeshommes.it