Accueil WTF Beirut explosion: The women and girls struggling in the aftermath

Beirut explosion: The women and girls struggling in the aftermath

Pictures of the women and children affected by the explosion
Huge numbers of women and children living in Lebanon have been negatively impacted by the explosion – and not just physically (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

As Lebanon reels from the widespread effects of the Beirut explosion a month ago, it became clear the community is far from recovery when panic erupted after a huge fire broke out at a port earlier today.

On August 4, a catastrophic blast swept across the city, destroying everything in its path and changing the face of the city as they knew it.

The lives of 190 people were lost, another 6,000 were injured, and 300,000 became homeless in a matter of seconds, leaving the capital resembling a war zone.

Already struggling with an economic crisis and widespread poverty, the explosion was devastating to those who were previously finding it difficult to make ends meet.

And although a huge amount of life and possessions were lost, the city will no doubt bear psychological scars for years, if not lifetimes to come.

Their voices previously unheard, Metro.co.uk reveals the experiences of some of the women and girls who are still struggling weeks on from the events of that day. Some names have been changed in the stories below at their request.

Pascale, 34: ‘We barely have money left to live’

Pascale, 34, was visiting her mother’s apartment in the same building that she lives in with her husband and two children, Maria, 5, and Elia, 4, when she heard what she thought was a jet engine flying overhead then the sound of a huge explosion.

‘We thought a rocket had hit our house,’ she said, ‘Bits of furniture and broken glass exploded around us and we thought we were being attacked.’

34-year-old Pascale was visiting her mother???s apartment in the same building that she lives in with her husband and two children, when she heard what she thought was a jet engine flying overhead, this was quickly followed by the sound of a huge explosion. Thinking it was an earthquake, she called her young children in from the front yard where they were playing. Nearly a month on from the explosion, the family are still picking up the pieces of their lives. ???My children now live with their aunt as we spend the day here cleaning and helping each other. My husband owns a shop here and has two warehouses filled with materials, everything got destroyed. His family's house and sister???s pharmacy was damaged too.??? Before the explosion, Pascale???s children were in school, but it was also wrecked in the blast. ???Now the school needs our help after it got completely destroyed. Living in this country is one big struggle. There is no school, no work, no future. We are no longer able to think of our children???s future.???
When the blast first hit, Pascale, 34, thought it was an earthquake (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

34-year-old Pascale was visiting her mother???s apartment in the same building that she lives in with her husband and two children, when she heard what she thought was a jet engine flying overhead, this was quickly followed by the sound of a huge explosion. Thinking it was an earthquake, she called her young children in from the front yard where they were playing. Nearly a month on from the explosion, the family are still picking up the pieces of their lives. ???My children now live with their aunt as we spend the day here cleaning and helping each other. My husband owns a shop here and has two warehouses filled with materials, everything got destroyed. His family's house and sister???s pharmacy was damaged too.??? Before the explosion, Pascale???s children were in school, but it was also wrecked in the blast. ???Now the school needs our help after it got completely destroyed. Living in this country is one big struggle. There is no school, no work, no future. We are no longer able to think of our children???s future.???
Pascale’s daughter Maria, aged 5, received injuries to her face (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

34-year-old Pascale was visiting her mother???s apartment in the same building that she lives in with her husband and two children, when she heard what she thought was a jet engine flying overhead, this was quickly followed by the sound of a huge explosion. Thinking it was an earthquake, she called her young children in from the front yard where they were playing. Nearly a month on from the explosion, the family are still picking up the pieces of their lives. ???My children now live with their aunt as we spend the day here cleaning and helping each other. My husband owns a shop here and has two warehouses filled with materials, everything got destroyed. His family's house and sister???s pharmacy was damaged too.??? Before the explosion, Pascale???s children were in school, but it was also wrecked in the blast. ???Now the school needs our help after it got completely destroyed. Living in this country is one big struggle. There is no school, no work, no future. We are no longer able to think of our children???s future.???
‘Bits of furniture and broken glass exploded around us and we thought we were being attacked,’ said Pascale (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

Thinking it was an earthquake, she called her young children in from the front yard where they were playing.

As Pascale and her son Elia hid under a table, another huge explosion happened, followed by a constant stream of smaller blasts.

It was then that their furniture started falling on them and a wooden stick hit Pascale in the face.

When the explosions finally stopped, the family were covered with blood and stumbled outside to get help.

‘We thought that people would rush to rescue us until I saw all the rubble outside,’ she said, ‘Everything was grey, wrecked houses, damaged cars and people crying for help.’

‘I started asking people what had happened. No one answered me, everyone was running for their lives. People were walking like zombies, it looked like a zombie apocalypse.’

34-year-old Pascale was visiting her mother???s apartment in the same building that she lives in with her husband and two children, when she heard what she thought was a jet engine flying overhead, this was quickly followed by the sound of a huge explosion. Thinking it was an earthquake, she called her young children in from the front yard where they were playing. Nearly a month on from the explosion, the family are still picking up the pieces of their lives. ???My children now live with their aunt as we spend the day here cleaning and helping each other. My husband owns a shop here and has two warehouses filled with materials, everything got destroyed. His family's house and sister???s pharmacy was damaged too.??? Before the explosion, Pascale???s children were in school, but it was also wrecked in the blast. ???Now the school needs our help after it got completely destroyed. Living in this country is one big struggle. There is no school, no work, no future. We are no longer able to think of our children???s future.???
Pascale said in the aftermath ‘everything was grey, wrecked houses, damaged cars and people crying for help’ (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

34-year-old Pascale was visiting her mother???s apartment in the same building that she lives in with her husband and two children, when she heard what she thought was a jet engine flying overhead, this was quickly followed by the sound of a huge explosion. Thinking it was an earthquake, she called her young children in from the front yard where they were playing. Nearly a month on from the explosion, the family are still picking up the pieces of their lives. ???My children now live with their aunt as we spend the day here cleaning and helping each other. My husband owns a shop here and has two warehouses filled with materials, everything got destroyed. His family's house and sister???s pharmacy was damaged too.??? Before the explosion, Pascale???s children were in school, but it was also wrecked in the blast. ???Now the school needs our help after it got completely destroyed. Living in this country is one big struggle. There is no school, no work, no future. We are no longer able to think of our children???s future.???
Pascale said her and her children lost their house, cars, and even their school (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

34-year-old Pascale was visiting her mother???s apartment in the same building that she lives in with her husband and two children, when she heard what she thought was a jet engine flying overhead, this was quickly followed by the sound of a huge explosion. Thinking it was an earthquake, she called her young children in from the front yard where they were playing. Nearly a month on from the explosion, the family are still picking up the pieces of their lives. ???My children now live with their aunt as we spend the day here cleaning and helping each other. My husband owns a shop here and has two warehouses filled with materials, everything got destroyed. His family's house and sister???s pharmacy was damaged too.??? Before the explosion, Pascale???s children were in school, but it was also wrecked in the blast. ???Now the school needs our help after it got completely destroyed. Living in this country is one big struggle. There is no school, no work, no future. We are no longer able to think of our children???s future.???
Maria plays with her brother Elia, 4, while their mum looks on (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

Nearly a month on from the explosion, the family are still picking up the pieces: ‘We lost our house, cars, and work. Charities are helping by rebuilding and fixing houses, but that doesn’t help us in the long term. We have literally lost everything and barely have money left to live.’

Before the explosion, Pascale’s children were in school, but it was also wrecked in the blast.

‘Now the school needs our help after it got completely destroyed,’ she said.

‘Living in this country is one big struggle. There is no school, no work, no future. We are no longer able to think of our children’s future.’

Fatmeh, 45: ‘Our children are now traumatised’

Fatmeh, 45, is a Syrian refugee who lives with her husband and 10 children in Beirut.

Fatmeh and her husband were in the street outside their house when the blast hit.

‘We didn’t know whether to hide in the garden or the house, that was when my eldest son came and told us to run into the house, he grabbed his brother and followed us in. It felt like a rocket had hit the place,’ she said.

45-year-old Fatmeh* is a Syrian refugee who lives with her husband and 10 children in Beirut. She and her family were caught up in the devastating explosion that killed at least 190 people and injured 6,500 others. ???I want my children to live in a safe and healthy environment, we the parents, we can control our feelings, but our children are so upset as they thought they were safe. Psychosocial activities are being held in the garden right beside our house, so I???m letting my children join them daily to help reduce the psychological pressure and stress they are under.??? Of Fatmeh???s ten children, only three have ever attended school. ???The children used to go to school by bus, but their bus expenses come to 40,000 Lebanon Pounds (around 26 USD) for each of them. Now I don't have enough money to cover three children's school expenses. How will I pay for their food, clothes, books, school supplies and bus expenses? I simply can't.???
Fatmeh, 45, is a Syrian refugee and has 10 children (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

45-year-old Fatmeh* is a Syrian refugee who lives with her husband and 10 children in Beirut. She and her family were caught up in the devastating explosion that killed at least 190 people and injured 6,500 others. ???I want my children to live in a safe and healthy environment, we the parents, we can control our feelings, but our children are so upset as they thought they were safe. Psychosocial activities are being held in the garden right beside our house, so I???m letting my children join them daily to help reduce the psychological pressure and stress they are under.??? Of Fatmeh???s ten children, only three have ever attended school. ???The children used to go to school by bus, but their bus expenses come to 40,000 Lebanon Pounds (around 26 USD) for each of them. Now I don't have enough money to cover three children's school expenses. How will I pay for their food, clothes, books, school supplies and bus expenses? I simply can't.???
She said she and her family felt ‘numb’ in the aftermath of the explosion (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

In the aftermath of the explosion, Fatmeh rushed to find her children who were at home.

‘Glass was scattered all over the house, the furniture and everything was destroyed,’ she recalled.

‘We ran outside, no one could enter the area; everyone was running to rescue their families.

‘On the first day, we felt numb. Later, in the days that followed, we started feeling pain from our injuries. A lot of people got hurt but the sad part is that our children are now traumatised.

‘I want my children to live in a safe and healthy environment, we the parents, we can control our feelings, but our children are so upset as they thought they were safe.

‘Activities are being held in the garden right beside our house, so I’m letting my children join them daily to help reduce the psychological pressure and stress they are under.’

45-year-old Fatmeh* is a Syrian refugee who lives with her husband and 10 children in Beirut. She and her family were caught up in the devastating explosion that killed at least 190 people and injured 6,500 others. ???I want my children to live in a safe and healthy environment, we the parents, we can control our feelings, but our children are so upset as they thought they were safe. Psychosocial activities are being held in the garden right beside our house, so I???m letting my children join them daily to help reduce the psychological pressure and stress they are under.??? Of Fatmeh???s ten children, only three have ever attended school. ???The children used to go to school by bus, but their bus expenses come to 40,000 Lebanon Pounds (around 26 USD) for each of them. Now I don't have enough money to cover three children's school expenses. How will I pay for their food, clothes, books, school supplies and bus expenses? I simply can't.???
The remains of Fatmeh and her family’s home (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

45-year-old Fatmeh* is a Syrian refugee who lives with her husband and 10 children in Beirut. She and her family were caught up in the devastating explosion that killed at least 190 people and injured 6,500 others. ???I want my children to live in a safe and healthy environment, we the parents, we can control our feelings, but our children are so upset as they thought they were safe. Psychosocial activities are being held in the garden right beside our house, so I???m letting my children join them daily to help reduce the psychological pressure and stress they are under.??? Of Fatmeh???s ten children, only three have ever attended school. ???The children used to go to school by bus, but their bus expenses come to 40,000 Lebanon Pounds (around 26 USD) for each of them. Now I don't have enough money to cover three children's school expenses. How will I pay for their food, clothes, books, school supplies and bus expenses? I simply can't.???
None of her children can read or write as Fatmeh is unable to pay for their education (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

Of Fatmeh’s 10 children, only three have ever attended school.

She added: ‘The children used to go to school by bus, but their bus expenses come to 40,000 Lebanon Pounds (around £20) for each of them.

‘Now I don’t have enough money to cover three children’s school expenses. How will I pay for their food, clothes, books, school supplies and bus expenses? I simply can’t.’

Fatmeh and her family have lived in Lebanon for six years now, but because she has been unable to pay for their education, none of them know how to read or write.

‘I wish we could emigrate; we don’t want to go back to Syria as the situation there is so catastrophic, and we can’t stay here,’ she said.

Lamar, 10: ‘I held my mummy really tightly’

Aicha, 46, lives with her husband and two daughters aged 10 and 7 in Beirut.

Her daughter Lamar, who is 10, said: ‘I was super scared. The noise was very loud and I thought we were being attacked.

‘The ceiling of my uncle’s house fell down. My uncle and my cousin were hurt, they were bleeding. I started crying and held my mummy really tightly.’

Aicha, 46, lives with her husband and two daughters aged 10 and 7 in Beirut. Her extended family live in the same apartment block which was badly damaged following the huge explosion in the Lebanon capital on 4 August which caused widespread damage extending across half of the city. ???I was super scared. The noise was very loud and I thought we were being attacked. The ceiling of my uncle???s house fell down. My uncle and my cousin were hurt, they were bleeding. I started crying and held my mummy really tightly,??? says 10-year-old Lamar, Aicha???s daughter.
Lamar, aged 10, said: ‘I started crying and held my mummy really tightly’ (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

Aicha, 46, lives with her husband and two daughters aged 10 and 7 in Beirut. Her extended family live in the same apartment block which was badly damaged following the huge explosion in the Lebanon capital on 4 August which caused widespread damage extending across half of the city. The explosion came at a difficult time for Lebanon, which is not only trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus but is also mired in an unprecedented economic crisis which has pushed tens of thousands of people into poverty. Now, one month on, Aisha tells us that her life changed for the worst. Her personality has altered, she has become very agitated and gets angry at everything. She mentions that she used to be a perfectionist but now she doesn???t care and is on survival mode. ???I am doing things I never imagined myself doing, like asking and fighting for support from NGO???s. I am doing what is needed to keep my children alive and fed,??? she says. Plan International has been supporting Aicha and her family with the delivery of food parcels, hygiene kits and sanitary pads.
Aicha, 46, is worried about her children’s education if schools have to open remotely, as the family have no internet access (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

Aicha, 46, lives with her husband and two daughters aged 10 and 7 in Beirut. Her extended family live in the same apartment block which was badly damaged following the huge explosion in the Lebanon capital on 4 August which caused widespread damage extending across half of the city. ???I was super scared. The noise was very loud and I thought we were being attacked. The ceiling of my uncle???s house fell down. My uncle and my cousin were hurt, they were bleeding. I started crying and held my mummy really tightly,??? says 10-year-old Lamar, Aicha???s daughter.
Lamar says she wants to be a doctor when she is older (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

Now, one month on, Aicha says her life changed for the worse: ‘I am doing things I never imagined myself doing, like asking and fighting for support. I am doing what is needed to keep my children alive and fed.

‘I don’t think schools will open with the rise of coronavirus, but if they do open remotely, I don’t know what to do. We don’t have the internet.

‘Whenever I want to use the internet we go to my brother’s house, but I’m not sure he can help us anymore as his house was damaged the most and now, he is the one that needs support.’

When asked about her hopes for the future, Lamar said: ‘When I grow up, I want to be a doctor, I am very good at biology and science.’

Fadia, 39: ‘I don’t see any future for them here’

Fadia, 39, who lives with her husband and their four children in Beirut.

‘My children ran to their room where my eldest daughter held them tight,’ she said.

‘The house was moving, glass was being shattered everywhere and the furniture fell on us. I saw my husband bleeding and then he fainted after a door hit him.

‘What stopped my heart was not being able to hear my children or see them from all the dust. It was like an earthquake, the house kept on shaking for couple of minutes.

???When the explosion happened, we were in our house. At first, we thought it was just a fire at the port, I was cooking dinner and my husband was on the balcony. When the first blast happened, my husband rushed in telling me get dressed immediately as it looked like a bomb. He didn???t finish his sentence when the second explosion happened,??? explains Fadia, 39, who lives with her husband and their four children in Beirut. Before the explosion, Fadia and her husband were already struggling having lost their jobs due to the coronavirus and the ensuing lockdown. Fadia used to work as manicurist and her husband is a taxi driver. When asked about their future plans, she says they are thinking about emigrating. ???My husband and my eldest son who is 12, keep telling me we need to emigrate. They say we can???t stay in this country anymore, there are no jobs, no security, we need to live a stable life. My teenage daughter is not well, she wants to go back to school, she needs stability.???
Fadia, 39, returned home to find the windows and doors of her home damaged beyond repair (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

???When the explosion happened, we were in our house. At first, we thought it was just a fire at the port, I was cooking dinner and my husband was on the balcony. When the first blast happened, my husband rushed in telling me get dressed immediately as it looked like a bomb. He didn???t finish his sentence when the second explosion happened,??? explains Fadia, 39, who lives with her husband and their four children in Beirut. Before the explosion, Fadia and her husband were already struggling having lost their jobs due to the coronavirus and the ensuing lockdown. Fadia used to work as manicurist and her husband is a taxi driver. When asked about their future plans, she says they are thinking about emigrating. ???My husband and my eldest son who is 12, keep telling me we need to emigrate. They say we can???t stay in this country anymore, there are no jobs, no security, we need to live a stable life. My teenage daughter is not well, she wants to go back to school, she needs stability.???
She thought she and her family would die in the explosion (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

‘I thought that this was the moment we would all die, I felt like the whole building was going to collapse on us.’

When the shaking stopped and the family were able to gather themselves together, they left their building and went outside. The sight that Fadia and her family saw was a scene of devastation. Houses had collapsed into rubble, they saw their friends and families injured, bleeding and suffering.  

Due to severity of the explosion, the main hospitals in Beirut were severely damaged and those that remained open were overwhelmed with injured people.

Fadia’s husband had to search for more than five hours for a hospital that was able to treat his cut leg. 

When the family returned home, they found that all the windows, doors and furniture had been destroyed beyond repair. Everything had to be thrown away and the family have been left with nothing but their lives. 

‘My youngest two are always afraid – whenever they hear any loud noises they come running into the house,’ Fadia added.

???When the explosion happened, we were in our house. At first, we thought it was just a fire at the port, I was cooking dinner and my husband was on the balcony. When the first blast happened, my husband rushed in telling me get dressed immediately as it looked like a bomb. He didn???t finish his sentence when the second explosion happened,??? explains Fadia, 39, who lives with her husband and their four children in Beirut. Before the explosion, Fadia and her husband were already struggling having lost their jobs due to the coronavirus and the ensuing lockdown. Fadia used to work as manicurist and her husband is a taxi driver. When asked about their future plans, she says they are thinking about emigrating. ???My husband and my eldest son who is 12, keep telling me we need to emigrate. They say we can???t stay in this country anymore, there are no jobs, no security, we need to live a stable life. My teenage daughter is not well, she wants to go back to school, she needs stability.???
Fadia is scared for the future of her children in Lebanon (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

???When the explosion happened, we were in our house. At first, we thought it was just a fire at the port, I was cooking dinner and my husband was on the balcony. When the first blast happened, my husband rushed in telling me get dressed immediately as it looked like a bomb. He didn???t finish his sentence when the second explosion happened,??? explains Fadia, 39, who lives with her husband and their four children in Beirut. Before the explosion, Fadia and her husband were already struggling having lost their jobs due to the coronavirus and the ensuing lockdown. Fadia used to work as manicurist and her husband is a taxi driver. When asked about their future plans, she says they are thinking about emigrating. ???My husband and my eldest son who is 12, keep telling me we need to emigrate. They say we can???t stay in this country anymore, there are no jobs, no security, we need to live a stable life. My teenage daughter is not well, she wants to go back to school, she needs stability.???
The family have been left with nothing but their lives (Picture: Dalia Khamissy / Plan International)

‘I feel that my youngest son, who is seven, has grown so much, I hear him talking now about issues that he shouldn’t be knowing or hearing about, he is talking about the dollar crisis and about the explosion. 

‘I don’t see any future for them here in Lebanon, my only hope is for them and for a better future is to emigrate and send my children to study outside this country.

‘Schooling is very expensive and even at a public school, we still have to pay for books, schools supplies and if we have to start remote learning, how will we be able to teach them?’

Sarah: ‘We’re living in a graveyard’

Sarah, a Syrian refugee who went into labour right before the explosion, lives in Karantina along with her husband and 18-month-old son.

She gave birth two hours before the explosion and called her husband to tell him to come to the hospital.

‘A few minutes after he arrived we heard an explosion,’ she said, ‘He rushed to turn on the TV, that’s when we knew a catastrophic blast took place in Beirut’s port.

‘Every day I thank God I called him and insisted that he comes earlier than expected.’

When the couple returned home, they found their entire house was destroyed – doors blown open, furniture wrecked and no new clothes for their new baby.

There was no longer any working electricity or water and it only returned after a week with help from some charities. The windows and doors are still broken.

Sarah added: ‘We ran away from the war in Syria, so we didn’t have to go through all this – we thought we would be safer here, but after the explosion I don’t feel safe anymore.

‘We have nothing left, no income, no house. It’s a no condition a woman should live in – especially a woman newly delivered – sometimes I fear sleeping in my house is so unsafe, especially with two small kids. 

‘Our life is a nightmare, it feels like we’re living in a graveyard. We escaped from war, but it seems we were meant to live in fear all our lives.’

‘Women and young girls are unsafe and at risk’

Global children’s charity Plan International has been working with partners in Lebanon to urgently distribute food and hygiene kits, and provide support to children who were injured or left homeless by the blast. It is also helping repair damaged school buildings and classrooms.

Rose Caldwell, chief executive at global children’s charity Plan International UK, said: ‘One month on from the devastating blast in Beirut the aftermath is putting children, especially girls, at risk. 

More: Charity

‘Many are now living in dangerous conditions. Some living in shared accommodation with no locks on the doors. Others in dangerous buildings where windows are shattered and there is no electricity at night.

‘This is making girls feel unsafe in their own homes, and we fear they might be exposed to gender-based violence and exploitation.

‘Worryingly, because so many schools were destroyed in the blast, girls no longer have a safe place to learn.

‘We are working with a local partner to repair damaged school buildings and classrooms to get girls back in school as quickly as we can, to give them the safe space to learn and continue their education.  

‘The scars from the blast are not only physical; the economic, social and psychological impact on a community  – many of which were already vulnerable – will be profound.

‘That’s why we are offering wellbeing and mental health support to all children affected by the blast; to ensure they have the space to talk about their feelings and receive the support they need to recover. 

‘We’re urging people to donate to our appeal and help us keep girls safe.’

Here are some other ways you can help the victims of the explosion.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected]

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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