Beirut Explosion Update
Over 7,000 supported after the explosion in Lebanon with food and psychosocial support
Jesuit Missions worked with the Xavier Network and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Lebanon after the devastating explosion in the port area of Beirut last August.
Despite the incredibly challenging context of COVID-19 lockdowns and an on-going economic crisis, JRS Lebanon have been able to provide over 1,500 families with food baskets and vital resources. This has helped more than 7,000 people so far.
As well as food and resources, more than 450 vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian families have received psychosocial support to help address the trauma that they experienced. Social workers provided psychological first aid to groups and individuals, and special assistance was given to those suffering from pre-existing conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Recipients of the emergency relief were identified by JRS’ Home Visits Team, who were already working with vulnerable families and conducted a rapid needs assessment after the explosion to identify more people in need.
Ahlam*, a 32-year-old mother of three children, fled Syria ten years ago when the war erupted in her homeland. A year and a half ago, she encountered a crisis that left her in bodily and emotional distress. Thus, she opened up to Iman, the social worker at Frans van der Lugt centre (FVDL) social centre, who suggested that she should meet Fatima, the clinical psychologist.
Fatima started giving Ahlam psychological support session over the phone due to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Ahlam would call Fatima whenever she felt mentally tired or a panic attack coming on. These conversations helped, and Ahlam says that “talking with Fatima made me feel better as she knew how to calm me down.”
After the devastating explosion in Beirut on August 4, however, Ahlam’s mental health deteriorated and she experienced even more intense physiological symptoms. “I was experiencing fast heartbeat, my stomach was stressed, and my body was aching, I could not stand on my feet. I felt that I was suffocating.” Ahlam recalls painfully
Fatima decided that she needed to meet with Ahlam in-person because of the seriousness of her state. Following all the precautionary measures against COVID-19, Fatima worked with Ahlam using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). As Fatima explains, “Ahlam was dealing with anxiety and panic attacks which increased after Beirut explosion. The CBT helped her to manage these episodes whenever they occurred by uncovering the sources of her fear and anxiety.” After several sessions, Ahlam is now able to better name and face her fears without panic attacks.
Ahlam stays in a good mood for days after the session with Fatima. She is able to cook for her family and take care of her children. These are tasks which can seem impossible when she feels down. Ahlam was also referred to the psychiatrist at JRS who prescribed medication for her case. “I tried so much to solve these problems on my own, but this didn’t work out. Then, I realised that I need someone to help me cope with this. It is not wrong to ask for help” Ahlam disclosed.
Ahlam is a vivid example for others who are dealing with similar disorders. She shows that asking for help is sometimes the best thing that we can do for ourselves. JRS continues to help and support Ahlam’s family and provided food basket to help them amid this economic crisis in Lebanon as part of the Beirut blast response.
Ahlam* is a fictitious name used to maintain confidentiality.
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