Aisha and her two young sons, Zakarya and Yahya, walked over to the large window in the living room of the house where the family live as caretakers. They wanted to see what they thought sounded like a plane, but seconds later their lives were turned upside down.

The two large explosions that rocked Lebanon’s capital of Beirut shattered all the windows and doors of the house and buried the two young boys and their mother under the debris of glass, doors and bricks.

“To see my son bleeding from his head and not being able to stop it. That was the hardest thing,” Aisha says.

“I was not aware that I was injured too.”

The Syrian refugee family, who come from the city of Al Hassakah, say they have never seen anything like the explosion that killed more than 170 people and injured thousands more, earlier in August.

“It was something I never felt before. I thought the whole house exploded.”

“I couldn’t see anything, it was dusty, and I heard my husband shouting.”

The devastating impact of the explosion is adding further to the difficulties faced by Lebanese and refugee people, with families already struggling to survive the economic crisis that was exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19.

Hospitals that were already near capacity with COVID-19 patients were inundated after the explosion with people suffering burns and wounds. Medical facilities were reportedly providing treatment on footpaths and in carparks.

Lebanon has historically provided shelter and protection to millions of refugees. A country of roughly 6.8 million people – it has taken in 1.5 million Syrian refugees alone since 2011, making it home to the largest number of refugees per capita in the world.

The aftermath of the explosion at a port in Beirut on August 4. © UNHCR/ H.Hariri

While a number of refugees residing in Beirut and affected surrounding areas were killed or injured in the explosion, many who were not impacted have rushed to give back to the country that has welcomed them.

I wish safety to everyone – Lebanese, Syrians or other nationalities. We don’t wish to see anyone bleeding and injured,” Aisha says.

The explosion affected everyone, regardless of nationality. UNHCR’s immediate humanitarian response covers the entire community.

The trauma caused by the blast will be long-lasting. Our UNHCR teams are providing psychological first aid to those most affected, including children, like Zakarya and Yahya, the elderly and those who were injured or lost a loved one.

We are also helping families like Aisha’s with healthcare and shelter support by delivering emergency weatherproofing to secure entrances and windows – providing some level of protection from the elements, safety and security and restoring people’s privacy and dignity.

UNHCR is providing humanitarian aid, such as emergency weatherproofing to secure homes, to those affected by the explosion. © UNHCR/ H.Darwish

Demand for humanitarian aid is only likely to increase in the coming months, and our resources to meet these needs in Lebanon are already under enormous strain due to the massive global response to safeguard refugee settlements against COVID-19.

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