UNICEF helps children cope with the hidden effects of Lebanon’s ongoing conflict
BEIRUT, 9 August 2006 - Children in Beirut have been deeply affected by the terrifying events they and their families have experienced, including the loss and injury of loved ones, and the destruction of their homes and schools.
The signs of this widespread – but often concealed -- anxiety vary from case to case: some children cling to their parents; others react fearfully to the sound of aircraft overhead; disturbed sleep patterns and instances of bed-wetting are being reported.
The continued bombing attacks on southern Beirut – clearly audible across the city – ensure bad memories are never far below the surface.
“When the bombing starts the young ones start crying,” says Najla Hussein, who – along with her seven children – has found shelter in a secondary school in central Beirut. “We all feel terrified, adults and children alike.”
UNICEF is working closely with the Lebanese government and non-governmental partners to address this situation. Recreational and educational supplies are being provided for the organisation of activities for children of all ages affected by the conflict. Items include footballs, volleyballs, chalk, crayons, paper, white boards, playing cards and building blocks. These supplies have reached more than 16,000 children in Beirut and surrounding areas, and in centres for displaced families across the country.
“By keeping families together and organising structured activities we can go some way towards putting normality back into the lives of these children and their parents,” says UNICEF regional child protection adviser, Trish Hiddleston. “Children do have an inner resilience in times of crisis – we have to build on this.”
In collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs and non governmental partners, simple guidelines, giving general advice on psycho-social support, are being developed for animators working with children, their parents and their communities. A total of 30,000 copies have been produced and are being distributed to professionals and animators working with children.
In addition, media messages for the protection and psycho-social care of children in the current circumstances are being finalised and will be broadcast on Lebanese radio and television.
Implementing the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan’s, call for an immediate cessations of hostilities will be the most effective way to protect these children from further distress and provide an opportunity for their healing and recovery.
Since the start of the crisis in Lebanon, UNICEF has provided:
• Essential drugs (including ORS and lice treatment) reaching 50,000;
• Vaccinated against measles: 9,000, vaccinated against polio: 5,000;
• 50 water tanks with a 5,000 litres capacity, to the Beirut, Aley and Chouf areas; beneficiaries reached: 25,000 persons;
• 60,000 litres of bottled water to communities in south Lebanon;
• 177 water kits (containing collapsible containers, purification tablets and other items) throughout Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the South, North, and Bekaa; IDPs reached: 78,000;
• 3,150 boxes of water purification tablets to Beirut and the South; IDPs reached: 63,000;
• 26,396 bags/bars of soap to Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the South, North, Bekaa; internally displaced people (IDPs) reached: 101,000;
• 263,000 diapers to Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the South, North, and Bekaa; IDPs reached: 88,000;
• 180 recreation kits containing footballs and other games equipment; children reached: 16,200.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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- Jehane Sedky-Lavandero
- UNICEF New York
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