BEIRUT — When the huge explosion ripped through Beirut last week, it shattered the glass doors near where 3-year-old Abed Itani was playing with his Lego blocks. He suffered a head injury and cuts on his tiny arms and feet, and he was taken to the emergency room, where he sat amid other bleeding people.
In the days since then, Abed has not been the same. Like thousands of others in Lebanon, he is grappling with trauma.
“When I got to the hospital, I found him sitting in a corner in the emergency room, trembling at the sight of badly injured people around him, blood dripping all over the floor,” said his mother, Hiba Achi, who was at work when the blast hit on Aug. 4 and had left him in the care of his grandmother.
“He hates red now. He refuses to wear his red shoes,” Achi said, adding that Abed insists that she wash them.
The massive explosion of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate in Beirut’s port killed more than 170 people, injured about 6,000 others and caused widespread damage. The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said three children were among the dead and at least 31 were hurt seriously enough to need hospital treatment.
As many as 100,000 children were displaced from their homes according to Save the Children, with many of them traumatized.
“Any noise makes him jump now. He is not eating well anymore,” Achi says. “He was a happy boy, very sociable. Now, he doesn’t talk to anyone.”
Joy Abi Habib, a mental health expert with Save The Children, says young people who are traumatized can react differently.
“Headaches, nausea, bed-wetting, digestive problems are physical symptoms parents tend to overlook,” she said. “They become clingy and extremely on edge.”