The explosions that tore through Beirut on August 4, 2020 devastated a large swathe of the city, destroying lives, homes and infrastructure, and exacerbating an already dire economic situation. UNICEF's humanitarian response has included a strong focus on the health and nutrition sector, which was already in crisis before the disaster. Within hours of the deadly explosions in the Port of Beirut, UNICEF jumped into action, providing life-saving support to affected families. While the emergency response has now shifted to a reconstruction and response to basic needs phase, the needs are still huge, and work is continuing. For the past year, UNICEF and partners, with donors' generous support, rebuilt health care facilities, schools and water supply services; provided emergency cash assistance; distributed essential nutrition and hygiene supplies; provided psychosocial support; and delivered counselling support for pregnant and lactating women, caregivers of children under 5 on infant and young child feeding practices. Restoring damaged health facilities was a top priority in order to ensure children and pregnant women have access to essential health and nutrition services. The Karantina area, which houses many of the city's most vulnerable residents, was among the hardest hit. Its hospital, public healthcare centre (PHC), and the national drug warehouse were all destroyed.
Restoring health services for the most vulnerable
The main hospital in the area – the only one that provided neonatal intensive care – was destroyed. The state hospital is a refuge for the most marginalized people requiring medical care, and a critical focal point of the neighbourhood’s health infrastructure, as well as the home of Lebanon’s national childhood vaccination programmes.
By rehabilitating the Karantina Hospital, UNICEF and partners aim to restore access to essential health-care services for the most vulnerable of the city’s residents and ensure that women and children receive high-quality and uninterrupted health care despite Lebanon's huge economic crisis.
Through an emergency project, UNICEF, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and partners, was able to rapidly save 1,748,660 doses of vaccines. The explosions devastated the national health sector's Central Supply Warehouse in Karantina and its refrigeration units used for vaccine storage, putting the entire stock of vaccines at risk.
Some of these vaccines were later used in the National Measles Campaign, the first immunization campaign to be launched in Lebanon during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The facility and the adjoining Karantina Public Healthcare Centre (PHC) are now fully operational, as are two other community PHCs. With UNICEF support, the Karantina PHC was able to open its doors in early February, offering subsidized medical examinations and treatment. Specialties include public health, mental health, paediatrics, gynaecology, cardiology, diabetes, renal care, gastroenterology, otolaryngology, dermatology, and general and orthopaedic surgery. In addition to laboratory tests, sonography, electrocardiograms, arteriography and x-rays – including scans, mammography, echography and MRIs – are covered under the programme. With access to essential health care that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive, the lives of many residents have already improved.