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UNICEF: At Least 3 Children Dead, 1,000 Injured, in Beirut Explosions

Palestinian children light candles to show their solidarity with the Lebanese people following the explosion in the port of Beirut, at the unknown soldier square in Gaza City, Aug. 6, 2020.

At least three children were killed and 1,000 more injured in the massive explosion that rocked Beirut, Lebanon last week, UNICEF said Tuesday. At least 31 children required hospitalization, the organization added.

The United Nations children’s fund noted in a statement Tuesday that for survivors affected by the blast, access to water, education, health care and their own homes could be limited.

UNICEF reported surveying 558 out of 3,000 damaged buildings and found that only 202 were accessible and had a water supply.

More than 8,000 Beirut students may see their education impacted, as UNICEF reported more than 140 public, private, technical and vocational schools are affected by the explosion.

At least 16 primary health care facilities and maternal, immunization and newborn centers were damaged, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore at a virtual briefing Monday. Together, the facilities and centers served nearly 126,000 people.

Last week, the agency estimated that some 80,000 children were displaced in the explosion. Many were separated from their families, although most have been reunited. Two children, UNICEF noted Tuesday, were still with extended family and receiving case management services.

“Recovery will be challenging. Lebanon is already facing an economic collapse and a worrying rise in COVID-19 cases,” Fore said. “The systems that people count on — health, nutrition, water and protection — are already stretched to the breaking point.”

The agency said it was providing tetanus vaccination shots, personal protective equipment, water and psychological first aid. Volunteers were helping to clean, cook, distribute food and water, and make minor repairs to homes and shops.

Children who lived through the blast may need special care and support, UNICEF and charity Save the Children warned.

“Children were already experiencing high levels of distress because of COVID-19 and the lockdown,” Joy Abi Habib, a mental health specialist for Save the Children in Beirut, said in a press release last week. “Now, the explosion has had a devastating effect on families. For children, like adults, the images and memories will resurface unexpectedly. In the aftermath, children could develop emotional, behavioral, and even physical symptoms.”

At least 220 people were killed and over 300,000 displaced in the explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate last week in Beirut. Lebanon’s prime minister announced his government’s resignation Monday night, after several nights of demonstrations by outraged citizens.

Leslie Bonilla contributed to this report