July 27 2006
Children's safety and supplies top priority
Situation report on the SOS Children's Villages in Lebanon
27/07/2006 - "Why did the war break out? We were living happily, I just don't know why people hate each other so much", asks four-year-old Jasmin. 15 children and four SOS mothers of SOS Children's Village Ksarnaba have been living together in one house since fighting broke out. They feel much safer this way.
"Don't worry, Zeina, we're all ok! The children are fine (like always) and we do our very best do give them a feeling of security. The nights are a bit difficult as we barely find any place to rest our heads. Still, we are strong and think that we are safe at the SOS Children's Villages", SOS mother Jean D'Arc explains to Zeina Allouche, director of SOS Children's Villages Lebanon, over the phone.
Five children and two SOS mothers who were spending their holidays with relatives have not been able to return to the SOS Children's Village yet. Two are in Beirut and cannot return to Ksarnaba at the moment given the unsafe situation; three cannot be reached via phone. The village director was also on holiday during the outbreak of war; his return via Syria is turning out to be a difficult journey, and they are expecting him to arrive on the weekend in Ksarnaba. Another 15 children (whose admission to the SOS Children's Village was scheduled to take place at an earlier stage) are also expected to arrive at the village by then. Evacuation plans and options will be looked into again upon the return of village director Dirani and the arrival of all children and SOS mothers to make sure that such an effort is necessary and a safe retreat from the area is possible.
The SOS Youth Facility in Abra, about 12 km from SOS Children's Village Sferai, is currently unoccupied; the youths are staying with relatives, and this situation is not going to change for the moment. The youth community Sin El Fil in Beirut will remain closed. The youth leaders and youths from two other youth facilities in Beirut are currently staying at the facility in Jiita in the capital city; five young women (who grew up at the SOS Children's Village) with their children are with them.
Some relatives of SOS mothers have found refuge at the SOS Children's Village in Bhersaf located right next to the town of Bikfaya in the Mont-Liban region east of Beirut. Three-year-old Ali and his family had to leave their house during the night, accompanied by the sound of falling bombs. "It is such an eerie sound. Now I know what if feels like to hate someone."
"Always the same story with wars…the children are the ones affected the most, as direct victims and trauma victims", says Zeina Allouche. "Securing supplies for the big SOS Children's Villages family in Lebanon - including those who have grown up in SOS Children's Villages and their families, and our SOS mothers' relatives - is our top priority. However, we also try very hard to provide help beyond that."
For example, the SOS Children's Village Sferai (about 10 km east of Sidon) has been providing about 200 families with children below the age of five with baby food, milk and nappies since last week. Zeina Allouche also says that the number of refugees is increasing steadily in the north of the country. "We have contacted the authorities that are co-ordinating the relief effort. We will find out about how SOS Children's Villages may be able to help in the days to come; children are, of course, a particular matter of concern to us."
Zeina, who not only had to clear the office of SOS Children's Villages Lebanon in Beirut, but also had to leave her home with her family and found refuge with relatives in the north of the country, says in a pensive way: "While I'm sitting here far away from Ksarnaba I ask myself how the children will cope. I'm a mother myself; I know what war is like and how huge the responsibility is to give children a feeling of security in such a situation."
Then she adds: "But, as Jean D'Arc put it…I am confident that the SOS Children's Village family is well-protected."