One month to the Beirut blast, people in Lebanon are still trying to come to terms with a tragedy that led to the loss of more than 150 lives, displacement of 300,000 people and injuries among 6000+. While the repercussions of the blast that rocked the city’s port on August 4th is mostly felt by those who lived/worked in impacted areas at that time, the blast exacerbated the crisis in Lebanon - a country that was already dealing with a set of spiraling crises that overburdened its people and together with the blast impoverished 2.7 million of its population.
UNDP has been on the ground since day one of the blast to assess the losses and areas of intervention needed to ensure a recovery process that puts people at the center. We have long been here for the people of Lebanon and today, we renew our commitment to stand by them to get past this tragedy as we work on responding to their needs through four key interventions:
1. Advocating for a Recovery Process that “Leaves no one behind”
UNDP launched a “Leave no one behind” (LNOB) report that sheds light on the most vulnerable groups and the importance of ensuring that they are at the center of recovery efforts. With more than half of Lebanon’s population confined in poverty, UNDP through the LNOB report, pleads actors engaged in recovery efforts to follow a set of 7 guiding principles for an inclusive, just and people centered recovery plan. It is a call for all actors to go beyond reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure and ensure a people-centric response that is focused on vulnerable groups’ specific needs.
“In this report, we want to ensure that the dignity of individuals, especially the most vulnerable, is safeguarded in the journey to recovery. By examining the disadvantages they face and in enacting an inclusive recovery framework, we will be transforming the slogan of “Leaving No One Behind” into effective actions that will make it possible to make a difference in the lives of the people that need it the most” said Celine Moyroud, UNDP Resident Representative in Lebanon
2. Safeguarding People’s Rights: Ensuring Legal Aid to the Most Vulnerable
More than 100,000 people lost their jobs due to the Beirut port blast, while 300,000 suffer from displacement due to the damage incurred on their homes. Protecting housing and labor rights of people has surfaced as one of the most essential elements for an inclusive and people-centered recovery. Some people’s lives are even at risk as they refuse to leave their damaged homes out of fear of losing the only shelter they could claim due to property tenure matters.
44 year old Rania- a Syrian refugee and mother of 3 children who are now without a shelter- tells us that her landlord kicked her out of her house one day following the blast. She came to one of the UNDP supported legal aid tents in the area of Gemmeyze to inquire on the legal recourses she has to get back access to her house. “I can barely make ends meet. I live in debt to feed my children. Due to the coronavirus and now the blast, I am both jobless and homeless,” she explains.
UNDP partnered with the Beirut Bar Association on ensuring legal aid to people impacted by the blast. Makeshift centers were installed in different locations accessible to the most vulnerable to benefit from legal assistance on blast related issues including housing and labor matters. “It is fundamental that free legal assistance be provided to the too many women, men, and families affected by the August 4 blast. In this context of exacerbated vulnerabilities, their rights need to be safeguarded;” explains Nino Karamaoun, UNDP’s chief technical advisor on Rule of Law and Human Rights.
3. Ensuring a continued access to livelihoods: helping the most vulnerable make ends meet
Hundreds of small to medium enterprises are incapable of going back to business without support. This number means the loss of a livelihood to thousands of people who were already struggling to make ends meet prior to the blast. In response, UNDP is prioritizing the restoration of livelihoods to more than 5000 people.
46 year old Khaled lost the source of his only income as a result of the blast. He was operating a car mechanics shop in the area of Karantina, one of the most impacted areas. Khaled is a father of two and his family relies on him for a living. “What are my chances to rebuild and buy equipment? None. I don’t have the finances to do this, especially with the dollar rate’s escalation day after day,” he explains.
“Leaving No One Behind” is our commitment to those who lost their livelihoods and ability to sustain themselves and their families. Now, and since before the Beirut Explosion, in light of the economic and financial crisis impacting the country and the most vulnerable people, “no one behind” means inclusivity supporting men, women, youth, people with disabilities, and people of all nationalities that are in need of a job and a decent life,” explains Marina Lo Giudice, UNDP’s Chief technical advisor for the Lebanon Host Communities Support Programme.
UNDP is also currently on the ground implementing essential repairs for 75 housing units. This has led to the generation of 300 jobs among affected communities through cash for work.
4. Debris management: Restoring People’s neighborhoods
The impact of the blast on Beirut’s different neighborhoods is tragic. UNDP, with support from the European Union is on the ground assessing the needs to ensure efficient management of the debris. We partnered with 3000 volunteer engineers to conduct a waste assessment, 75 of which who were deployed on the ground to collect the required data. An online assessment tool was also developed for this purpose and the volunteers were trained on its use to facilitate the data collection process.
UNDP and the EU are also working NGO’s and universities to determine temporary waste storage sites as well as final treatment solutions including sorting and recycling to mitigate the impact on the environment.