Psychosocial Support for Integrated Recovery in Beirut

By Ornella Najem, Communications Officer, UNDP Lebanon | Photo credit: UNDP Lebanon/ Rana Sweidan

November 5, 2020

The Beirut Explosion of August 4, 2020 left behind an explosion of feelings as its impact extended deeper and beyond the direct destruction of surrounding areas affecting the psychological conditions of people from different ages and diverse backgrounds.  

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is helping the most vulnerable people in Karantina heal from the trauma and psychological wounds caused by the devastating blast and rebuild a strong social structure of active survivors.

This initiative is encouraging Karantina children, women and men of all ages to speak about what they saw, heard, felt and did during and after the explosion by conducting discussions and support sessions to help them recover and see their ways forward.

“We were living in horror and fear. I suffered from a nervous breakdown and I was finding difficulties breathing,” said Aida Al Mahoumd, a 65-year-old Karantina resident. “During the helpful sessions, I was able to express myself and I feel much better now.”

The Beirut port explosion reopened wounds of the civil war and is described by local residents as “incomparable” to anything they’ve ever experienced before. Additionally, it has caused feelings of uncertainty amongst them as they continue to experience recurring thoughts of the incident; “every time I lay my head on the pillow to sleep, I hear the sound of the explosion again,” Aida added.

The psychosocial support focus group, with the technical assistance of AVSI and Armadilla, is embracing UNDP’s people-centric approach by helping those affected by the blast identify the feelings they have experienced, understand their reactions, and regain, gradually with each session, a more positive and optimistic outlook.

“The soul is the most precious thing in life, much more precious than money. I was feeling down and hopeless and if it wasn’t for the support I received, I could have done something bad to myself. With your help, I am improving and that is the biggest blessing", expressed Khalil Ibrahim Houssam another survivor of the blast.