As last week’s huge blast tore through Beirut, it smashed the glass doors near where Abed Itani, 3 years boy was playing with his Lego blocks. He was stabbed in his head and cut off his small arms and feet, and rushed to the emergency room where he sat with other people who were bleeding.
Abed hasn’t been the same in the days since then. He is dealing with depression-like thousands of people in Lebanon.
“When I got to the hospital, I saw him sitting in the emergency room, shivering in the sight of the people who were seriously wounded, the blood falling all over the floor,” said his mother, Hiba Achi, who was at work when the blast hit his grandmother on 4 August and left him in his care.
“Now he hates purple. He refuses to wear his red socks, “said Achi, adding that she keeps on cleaning them.
More than 170 people were killed, about 6000 others were injured, and extensive damage was caused by the huge explosion of almost 3000 tons of ammonium nitrate in Beirut Harbour. The United Nations. UNICEF child agency said three children had been killed and at least 31 had been critically injured to seek hospital care.
According to Save the Children, up to 100,000 children were displaced from their homes and many traumatized.
“Some noise is now making him run. He doesn’t eat much anymore, “says Achi. “He was a very sociable, happy child. He’s not talking to anybody now.
Joy Abi Habib, Save The Children’s mental health specialist, says that traumatized youth will respond differently.
“The physical symptoms parents tend to overlook, headaches, nausea, bedwetting, digestive problems,” she said. “We feel really clingy and on the bottom.”
The daughters of Zeinab Ghazale, Yasmine, 8, and Talia, 11, refused to sleep alone in their bedrooms after the explosion smashed the doors of their apartment and sent glass to fly their house.
“We survived miraculously,” Ghazale said, who had to bring her daughters out of the house a few days before the windows were repaired. “But my daughter Yasmin continues to wonder, ‘Why have I no normal childhood? Why do I go through all of this when I’m just eight? After the blast, the psychologist Maha Ghazale, who is no partnership, treated a lot of children.
She said that many are in doubt “and still ask if this will happen again.” “Most kids refuse to go home to a glass door or window,” said Ghazale.
Ricardo Molaschi and his Lebanese mother visited his grandparents’ apartment in Beirut.
When the explosion struck, the 6-year-old was stitched by the glass. Kazem Shamseddine, his grandfather, had been murdered. The young person has repeatedly screamed against whoever caused the blast.
“I want to throw it into a volcano and let it explode,” he said.
Ghazale said that it is important for children to handle a trauma — to be angry but also to enable them to share their story orally or by means of art and playing.
“My son, Fares, continues to play a fire-fighting game, and he wants to flee,” Rania Achkar, mother of two, said.
Her daughter, Raya, who is 4 years old, has turned the Lebanese national hymn into a blasting album. “Someone exploded the earth,” she sings, “everywhere there is an explosion, everyone talks about us on TV.”
The trauma may arise again if children are subjected to adult news and conversations about it, says Ghazali, who encourages them to separate them and look for support.
“Children are resilient, but unprocessed trauma can lead to increased anxiety, behavioural problems and later to negative coping,” she says.
It will help restore a sense of security, normality and routine, says Ghazale.
Hiba Achi says she decided to leave Lebanon with her son and join her Dubai-based husband.
It’s a sentiment that others have shared. “This place is not safe, it’s never safe, never it’s never safe,” she says, “I won’t live, that’s it.”
Her guilt is felt by many parents, especially those who lived through the 1975-1990 civil war in Lebanon and feel that their children have failed.
“Our generation is traumatized forever,” says Achkar, two ‘s mother, referring to those who have grown up after the war in Lebanon.
“So why do our children go through this too?