One year from Beirut’s devastating blast, Lebanon is on the brink of a mental health crisis, warns SOS Children’s Villages.
Last August, a deadly explosion in Beirut damaged half the city's health facilities and left around 100,000 children without a home. Today, Lebanon faces critical medical shortages and officials are warning that many drug supplies will be depleted by mid-summer.
In the past year, children and families in Lebanon have encountered nonstop suffering: COVID-19, a deadly blast, financial downturn and medical shortages. According to psychologists working with SOS Children’s Villages, the repeated stress and anxiety children are facing in Lebanon could have long-term effects on their mental health and development without urgent action.
To make matters worse, the country is facing a financial crisis, which ranks among the world’s worst since the mid-1800s, according to the World Bank. The currency has lost more than 90% of its value since October 2019, and inflation is at its highest rate ever recorded, causing food, water and fuel prices to skyrocket.
Michel Haddad, a clinical psychologist providing psychosocial support to children and families through SOS Children’s Villages, says:
“The need for mental health and psychosocial support has increased significantly since the blast. Explosions trigger trauma and panic, especially in a country that has suffered from ongoing conflicts in the past. Added with the current living conditions in Lebanon—rising unemployment, fears of medical shortages, increasing poverty—people are living in a heightened state of anxiety and uncertainty."
“Many of those who are suffering from severe distress do not have access to the services they need to recover. If children’s suffering is left untreated, especially young children, it could have damaging long-term psychological and developmental implications. Repeated exposure to trauma at a young age can severely disrupt children’s learning, well-being and their ability to form relationships.
“When it comes to humanitarian responses, there is often a focus on food and money distributions. However, psychosocial support is vital to the recovery of traumatized communities, especially when people are facing various challenges at once.”
SOS Children’s Villages is providing psychosocial support in Beirut so that children and their families can better cope with the losses they have faced in the past 12 months, from the Beirut port explosion to the economic, social and health crises. We are also helping families learn conflict resolution and teaching parents how to identify signs of distress in their children.
With the right help, families will be able to recover from the trauma and stress they have encountered. However, without an urgent boost to the provision of mental health and psychosocial support in Lebanon, the consequences of these repeated crises could have lasting impacts on children for years to come.
We are calling on the international community to come together to ensure children and their families in Lebanon get the support they need to recover and rebuild their lives.