Marie Mörth: 'The big problem is that refugee children just have nothing to do'

A Child Protection Adviser for Save the Children in Beirut describes a week in the life of the relief effort in Lebanon

Share


MONDAY

A day of co-ordination and planning. I attend a series of meetings with other agencies. I also speak to the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs to check what the government is doing and how we can best work with them. Later I move from my hotel to stay with the head of our regional office. She lives here but her family has fled so she is happy to have company.

TUESDAY

More of the same. I meet the Minister for Social Affairs and learn more about what systems already exist to support children. For us to help them we need to work closely with the government.

WEDNESDAY

Finally I go into the field. I visit Jezzine, a city in the mountains south of Beirut and a centre for thousands of displaced people. Meet with local authorities and government officials to find out who is doing what. The biggest problem is the lack of activities for children. Other agencies and authorities are taking care of food and people's basic needs but there is little to occupy children. After a crisis like this, children need activities so they can relate to each other and express their feelings. In one school we visit, the kids say that as soon as they want to play, adults tell them to go away and be quiet - you can't play here. Their parents are under great stress but the children need to play and be around caring adults. I also find conditions unsuitable and even dangerous.

THURSDAY

I visit Sidon, along the coast from Beirut. It's Lebanon's second-largest city and has received many displaced people from the south. Some say there are more than 100 displacement centres here. We meet one of our Beirut-based staff who got stuck there when the fighting started. She was relieved to see us. She has been co-ordinating with our local partners, who are amazing and have been working all hours, but they're stretched. Their greatest challenge is the sheer number of people, and trying to reach them all. We find the same problems here - children have nothing to do. In the evening I return to Beirut, but heavy bombing means I barely sleep.

FRIDAY

Back to Jezzine with a colleague to check on the distribution of non-food items. We find a shortage of nappies, mattresses, sheets and other basics.

I go to three different displacement centres to talk to communities and find volunteers to start children's activities. People are very willing to help and to identify safe play areas. They confirm that the biggest problem is the lack of things for children to do. Later I meet three youth groups who are also keen to help displaced children. Some suggest first-aid training for youths in camps and others want to stage football tournaments. In the evening I go back to Beirut but return to the hotel because my colleague has left her flat. I sleep better.

SATURDAY

After another meeting I go back to Jezzine to meet our newly appointed volunteers and check the safe play areas they have chosen. We give the volunteers an orientation session on how to work with children. We tell them what to look for in children's behaviour and how to help them if they notice problems.

We also give out recreational kits that include balls, hula hoops, board games and colouring pens. We have to cut the trip short when a bomb falls nearby. We'll return later.

SUNDAY

I have my first lie-in for three weeks. Then I go to the office after lunch and start to look at the bigger picture, long term, and at different scenarios - are people going to move back? When? How do we best support those who go, and those who stay?

Today I'm quite hopeful, if people can go back. People I talk to say they're ready to go home, but not all will be able to go - their homes have been destroyed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam