Najat Rushdie, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon, spoke to UN News about how the country has coped over the past 12 months and what the future holds.
“I was in my new position as the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon for only three days when devastating explosions swept through the port of Beirut.
The aftermath of those eruptions still reverberates one year later. The country is striving to find a way out of the tragedy that has affected everyone.
The devastating repercussions of August 4th exacerbated the suffering in Lebanon, which was already suffering from civil unrest, economic and financial hardships, growing poverty, and unemployment, in addition to the political impasse and a rising population. COVID-19 cases.
A year after this tragedy, the hardship and growing frustration are compounded. I met many Lebanese who expressed their opinion and confronted the deprivation and hardships experienced by many in this country.
People like a 59-year-old homeless man named Joseph, who dreams of having a roof over his head and a door that he can close when he sleeps, and Cathy, a 15-year-old who has a simple desire to own a mobile phone. Phone so you can access online learning.
Or Myrna, a 50-year-old teacher who used to make a living and provide for her family, but now she can only afford one meal a day and is forced to seek help. “They took my dignity,” she told me with tears in her eyes.
The situation is ‘getting worse every day’
It is clear to me that the situation of ordinary people in Lebanon is getting worse day by day. Currently, the United Nations estimates that more than one million Lebanese (out of nearly eight million people, including more than two million refugees and migrants) require relief assistance to cover their basic needs, including access to food, health, education, and water.
In addition, nine out of 10 refugees live in extreme poverty, up from 55 percent from the previous year. More than half of migrants in Lebanon say they are unable to meet their food needs, and the same number of migrants report being unemployed (with the majority losing their jobs during the last quarter of 2020).
Lebanon, which not so long ago was a high middle income country, is now facing probably the worst financial and economic crisis in its modern history. More than half of its population lives in poverty. Perhaps not surprisingly, many people lose faith in their leaders and institutions.
Support for a brighter future
Despite the bleak outlook, I believe, as do many Lebanese, that the country has strong potential for a brighter future.
In the immediate aftermath of the explosions, the United Nations and its partners responded quickly and decisively to save lives and provide emergency assistance to those affected. $167 million has been generously received for the United Nations Coordinated Flash Appeal, one of the best funded appeals in 2020.
Support has been provided to hospitals and healthcare centers to continue providing essential services, including in relation to COVID-19; Assessment of damage to homes and distribution of emergency shelter kits to ensure immediate safety and protection; Reconnecting water connections, including pumps and tanks; Hygiene and baby items were distributed, as well as food parcels in kind; Protection and psychosocial and mental health support services were provided; Resources for debris removal efforts.
Basic repairs to hospitals, primary health care centers, schools and housing have also begun, while the humanitarian community has moved towards multi-purpose cash assistance to support recovery, livelihoods and local markets.
On the recovery side, the United Nations, together with the European Union and the World Bank, and in consultation with relevant stakeholders, has developed the Framework for Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction. Known as 3RF, it is a people-centred program that focuses on participation, inclusion, and social justice.
It is for people and feels it. It envisions a pioneering new way of working based on partnerships that bring together the presidency, government, parliament, civil society, the private sector and international partners, as well as the European Union, the World Bank and the United Nations to ensure reconstruction. of assets, services and infrastructure critical to achieving equal access to quality basic services, as well as implementing major reforms. Its priorities, programs and forward looking investments include social inclusion and protection; rehabilitation of housing and cultural heritage; municipal services and the environment; and restore business.
Already, thousands of people have received legal assistance to deal with lawsuits arising from the explosions. Many public buildings have been modernized with green technologies, and health facilities have received critical medical equipment. Many schools and medical facilities have been reconstructed or partially rehabilitated. In this way, Lebanon begins a long and arduous process of rebuilding better.
“Emergency assistance is not the answer”
But also, Lebanon’s recovery must coincide with reform. Emergency assistance is not the answer.
It is unfortunate that Lebanon’s leaders have been unable to reach agreement on the formation of a new government in the past ten months, which has delayed the urgently needed structural reforms to address the many challenges facing the country.
This is a defining moment in the history of Lebanon. The scale, depth and common dimensions of the political, social, economic and humanitarian crises that Lebanon is facing are unprecedented and present an increasingly difficult landscape for the United Nations to implement its mandates.
But the ultimate responsibility for avoiding the complete collapse of Lebanon lies primarily with its leaders.
The United Nations stands by Lebanon
Unfortunately, a year after my arrival in Lebanon and the explosions that rocked Beirut shortly thereafter, the situation continues to deteriorate. The United Nations is developing a 12-month Emergency Response Plan that outlines priority collective responses to the critical humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and situation-affected Lebanese and migrants; It complements support already provided to refugees and host communities.
This is not a solution. It aims to connect and prepare for a transition towards solutions to address the root causes of the crisis, which will only come from structural reforms and comprehensive and sustainable government-led development interventions, including the implementation of an inclusive, inclusive and integrated government-led social protection strategy.
I was inspired by the spirit, solidarity and courage of the Lebanese youth. The United Nations will continue to stand by Lebanon as it continues its path to recovery and eventual realization of its potential. However, the biggest capital is human capital and Lebanon can count on its women and men. Who pledged not to leave the country despite the situation, who uses his creativity, leadership and commitment to building a better Lebanon. This is Lebanon’s best hope.”
Read more here about the work of the United Nations in Lebanon