OFID and UNDP join forces to address the environmental impact of the Syria crisis in Lebanon

The Syrian conflict is arguably the most tragic humanitarian crisis of our time. Since 2011, half of the country’s pre-war population — more than 11 million people — have been killed or have fled their homes. There are currently more than 4.96 million registered Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. This situation puts the resilience of both the refugees and the host communities to test, pressuring natural resources, basic services, and the economies of affected countries. 

The Government of Lebanon estimates that the country hosts 1.5 million Syrians, at a ratio of one in five people to its population and with an approximate loss of $13.1 billion. Overall, 85% of registered refugees live in the most vulnerable, most poor regions in Lebanon, in which 67% of the population live below the poverty line and in certain villages the displaced Syrians outnumber local residents. The country’s public services and infrastructure, poor and dysfunctional even before the crisis, are now under severe strain as a result of the refugee influx. 
To support Lebanon with this protracted crisis, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), joined forces through a generous grant from OFID, and building on UNDP’s field presence and technical expertise; specifically to address the public health and environmental shock caused by the incremental quantity of municipal solid waste. In particular, garbage collection expenditures by municipalities increased by 40%, while the near absence of solid waste management facilities has led to an increase in open unsanitary dumping of waste throughout the country. Recent estimates indicate that there are nearly 900 open dumpsites scattered throughout Lebanon. 

This massive impact on already weak basic services, natural resources, and the general environment remains a priority concern for local residents. This can also generate intercommunity issues, such as in the case of the pollution of the Litani River which is increasingly being reported by municipalities as generating tensions. One such example is the village of Ghazzeh in the West Bekaa region that has some 6,500 Lebanese inhabitants, while the municipality indicates that nearly 30,000 Syrian refugees are currently hosted in this village. Due to the absence of sufficient and functioning municipal solid waste management facilities, the municipality currently disposes of its waste in an open unsanitary dumpsite that poses numerous environmental and health threats. This dumpsite has now increased tremendously in size and it is estimated to have reached an area covering 7,000m2.

The OFID-UNDP project focuses on improving the solid waste management in Ghazzeh village, specifically to rehabilitate and remove the open unsanitary municipal solid waste dumpsite. One of the two cells for waste disposal has already been constructed, and the entire waste from the unsanitary dump was moved there. The excavation work started on the construction of a second cell in its vicinity and it will be operational soon.  The project, undertaken in close coordination with the municipality of Ghazzeh and the Ministry of Environment, will also be providing the municipality with equipment to support in waste collection. The intervention also includes an awareness raising component on waste separation and recycling, to ensure long-term sustainability and strengthen the resilience of communities.

In addition to this project, OFID has also extended financial support to assist UNDP in its ongoing response to the impact of the Syrian crisis in Jordan, addressing the problem of water scarcity, which is among the top challenges facing the country. Since the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, OFID has partnered with many implementing agencies and relief organizations to mitigate the impact of the ongoing hostilities and the resulting displacement and influx of refugees, both within Syria, and in the most affected neighboring countries and host communities.

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