Lebanon: Reigniting kids hope at Al- Azarieh Pre-school post Beirut blast and COVID-19 impact

05th July 2021 - Beirut, Lebanon

“It is obvious how important are the hygiene kits, but nothing brings me more joy than seeing my children happy and nothing brings me more comfort than feeling that somebody cares for my family’s safety in helping for the registration of the COVID-19 vaccine,” said one of the migrant workers at Al-Azarieh pre-school.
The Beirut blast has left many survivors with emotional and psychological scars. Simultaneously, the precarious socio-economic situation and health risks due to COVID-19 has led to increased vulnerabilities. In this context, migrants have become one of the key vulnerable groups, in a high risk of being smuggled migrants or victims of human trafficking.
Within the framework of the project “Supporting Lebanon’s efforts in addressing the increased risk of trafficking in persons (TiP) and smuggling of migrants (SoM) in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion and COVID-19,” funded by Austria, and in collaboration with “Caritas/Migrant Workers Programme” and the “Bureau Social des Pères Lazaristes” in Achrafieh, UNODC provided a comprehensive package of services aiming to ensure basic needs, safe spaces as well as educational and recreational activities for migrant workers’ families affected by the Beirut Blast and capacity building for front line workers including teachers to reduce post-traumatic stress in children who faced possible trauma.
The Beirut explosion took a heavy toll on Al-Azarieh school that hosts pre-school migrant workers’ children in addition to a dedicated floor serving as a shelter for victims of human trafficking that accommodates 12 girls. Accordingly, UNODC inaugurated the fully refurbished and equipped playground at the occasion of the end of the school year.
A two-days festive event for 130 children of migrants was organized with different animation shows to make children laugh and reignite their hope. Alongside this initiative, the “Zorbs” alien characters, which aims to promote core values such as acceptance, fairness, integrity, and respect, landed in the schoolyard on a welcome banner in different languages (Ethiopian, Sri-Lankeese, Arabic, and more). The children found in their “Zorbs” tote bags: comic books, coloring book with pencils and stickers, and a pack of sweets to bring more sweetness to their day.
In addition to the children’s activities, migrant workers’ families benefited from the distribution of 304 hygiene kits, based on the focus groups’ needs assessment that was conducted by UNODC, along with Dignity kits procured by UNFPA.
Since fair distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines represents public health and is a human right, UNODC facilitated access to the migrants and families during the event to register for the COVID-19 vaccine on the Lebanones Ministry of Health's vaccination website “COVAX.” More than 50% of the migrants at the event registered for the vaccine. 
The Ambassador of Austria in Lebanon, René Amry, attended the event as Austria generously supported the effort.
Trafficking in Persons is a crime punished by the Lebanese law. According to the definition mentioned in Law No 164/2011, “trafficking in persons is to attract, transfer, receive, detain or shelter a person by means/threat of force or its usage, kidnapping or deception, or abuse of power, or exploiting vulnerability…for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation by others.” This is aligned with the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto (UNTOC).
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