One in four Beirut children could miss school after blast: IRC

The explosion on August 4 has damaged much of the Lebanese capital, including schools, hospitals and homes

epa08629060 A damaged public school is seen during a visit of UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay at Ashrafieh area in Beirut, Lebanon, 27 August 2020. Azoulay arrived in Lebanon on 26 August 2020 in a tour to check possible ways in helping in reconstructing destroyed school as well as building considered heritage for UNESCO. According to Lebanese Health Ministry at least 181 people were killed, and more than six thousand injured in the Beirut blast that devastated the port area on 04 August and believed to have been caused by an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse. The explosion damaged some 50 thousand housing units, and left 300 thousand people homeless. Preparations for the restoration of partially damaged buildings began in the areas of Karantina, Gemmayze, and Mar Mikhael facing the port of Beirut.  EPA-EFE/WAEL HAMZEH *** Local Caption *** 56300886
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A quarter of school-age children in Lebanon's capital risk missing out on school after last month's deadly port explosion, the International Rescue Committee aid group warned Monday.

"With 163 schools damaged by the Beirut explosion, at least 1 in 4 children in the city are now at risk of missing out on their education," it said in a statement.

IRC said the estimations were based on the impact of the blast alone and did not take into account that of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"Over 85,000 pupils were registered at the schools damaged by the blasts and it will take up to a year for the most severely damaged buildings to be repaired," it added.

Beirut blast in pictures 

The massive explosion of a stockpile of ammonium nitrate at Beirut port on August 4 killed more than 190 people, wounded over 6,500 more and ravaged buildings in surrounding residential neighbourhoods.

It was a devastating to blow to a country already facing its worst economic crisis in decades and a series of lockdowns aimed at stemming the spread of Covid-19.

IRC said the slow pace of rebuilding, parent concerns over the cost and safety of transport to alternative schools, and children being sent to work to help their struggling families could all keep pupils out of class.

"Overall, we are expecting to see far fewer children enrolled in schools this September and a high drop-out rate as the year progresses," said the aid group's acting Lebanon director Mohammad Nasser.

Schools in Lebanon have not yet re-opened over a spike in coronavirus cases, which have risen in the wake of the explosion to more than 35,000 infections including at least 340 deaths since February.