Geneva Palais briefing note: Caught in the Crossfire – Lebanon’s children under fire

This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Spokesperson James Elder – to whom quoted text may be attributed - at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

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Geneva Palais briefing note: Caught in the Crossfire – Lebanon’s children under fire

GENEVA, 30 April 2024 – “A new report from UNICEF in Lebanon underscores the deepening suffering of children in the country, as Lebanon grapples with a cascade of crises, compounded by conflict.

“The report, Caught in the Crossfire: The Impact of Six Months of Conflict on Children in Lebanon, finds a surge in humanitarian needs across Lebanon, on the back of air strikes that have progressively hit deeper into a country already suffering protracted economic and political crisis.

“UNICEF has previously warned of Lebanon’s unrelenting, overlapping emergencies and their impact on children and education. Today these are compounded by almost daily airstrikes. Together with those children killed and scores injured, 30,000 children have been displaced. Infrastructure that children rely on is being destroyed, including significant damage to water stations, thus denying 100,000 people access to safe drinking water. Around 23 healthcare facilities – serving 4,000 people – are also closed due to the hostilities. Should the conflict continue to escalate, UNICEF warns that the repercussions for children will be devastating.

“The current conflict has aggravated a pre-existing education crisis in Lebanon. Even before the current conflict, over 700,000 children were out of school and not learning. And today in southern Lebanon, the recent violence has caused more than 70 schools to be closed as well.

“As a consequence of the ongoing economic crisis, it is estimated that more than half of the Lebanese population is living below the poverty line, while an estimated 90 per cent of Syrian refugee households live in extreme poverty.

“Combined, the situation is also having a profound toll on the mental health and physical well-being of children and their families, with alarming levels of psychological distress reported. Reports of anxiety and trauma have surged – not only due to displacement but also in response to the relentless shelling and air raids. Among Palestinian parents and caregivers across Lebanon, almost one in two children – 47 per cent – express anxiety.

“The report also offers an overview of UNICEF’s results for children amid this current crisis. But even with our greatest efforts, a permanent ceasefire is essential. Without that, Lebanon is at risk of a full-scale war which would have a devastating impact on the 1.3 million children living in the country, as well as the rest of the children in the region.”


 Children in Lebanon pay heavy price amid intensifying conflict in the south and compounding national crises

75 per cent of children in Lebanon at risk of poverty, as multiple overlapping crises push families closer to the brink

BEIRUT, 30 April 2024 – Ongoing hostilities in southern Lebanon are taking a devastating toll on the population, forcing approximately over 90,000 people – including 30,000 children – from their homes. According to the latest report from the Ministry of Public Health, 8 children are among the 344 people killed and 75 children among the 1359 people injured since the escalation of the hostilities in October 2023.

The increase in armed conflict has damaged civilian infrastructure and facilities and has also impacted the essential services that children and families depend on, including significant damage to nine water stations, which serve a population of 100,000 people.

More than 70 schools are currently closed, affecting around 20,000 students and significantly affecting their education. Around 23 healthcare facilities – serving 4,000 people – are closed due to the hostilities.

“As the conflict impacting the south of Lebanon is in its seventh month, we are deeply concerned by the situation of children and families who have been forced from their homes, and the profound long-term impact the violence is taking on children’s safety, health and access to education,” said UNICEF Representative in Lebanon, Edouard Beigbeder. “As long as the situation remains so volatile, more children will suffer. Protection of children is an obligation under the International Humanitarian Law and every child deserves to be safe.”

Prior to the onset of this conflict, Lebanon’s essential services, including health and education systems, were already on the brink of collapse after years of being overstretched. The health system is unable to meet the demands for public healthcare due to a scarcity of resources including energy, human resources, equipment, and medication. The unprecedented financial and economic crises that have devastated the country since 2019 have exacerbated existing economic vulnerabilities, resulting in the loss of jobs and income, high inflation, and a shortage of essential services including electricity and medication.

UNICEF, working with partners, has been delivering vital aid to families affected by the hostilities, including life-saving medical supplies, hygiene kits, micronutrient supplements and complementary feeding jars to the displaced families who are mainly living in collective shelters. UNICEF has also delivered fuel, water, water tanks, winter clothes and blankets. A one-time emergency cash support was jointly delivered with the Ministry of Social Affairs to address the immediate needs of 85,000 people. Internally displaced children were able to resume their education in public schools and received new school supplies and transportation assistance.

“The situation in the south is adding to the ongoing multiple crises that the country has been facing since 2019,” said Beigbeder. “The severity of the crises is unbearable for children, and more must be done to prevent their suffering. We call for an immediate ceasefire and the protection of children and civilians. We must redouble our efforts to make sure every child in Lebanon is in school and learning, is protected from physical and mental harm, and has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to society.”


 Notes for editors:   


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For more information, please contact:

Joe Odell, UNICEF UK, 0207 375 6030, [email protected]


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