UNDP: marginalized should be prioritized in post-blast recovery process

Source: Annahar
Ghadir Hamadi
Photo shows an area in Beirut affected by the blast and clocks stopped at the time the blast took place. (Photo courtesy of UNDP)
Photo shows an area in Beirut affected by the blast and clocks stopped at the time the blast took place. (Photo courtesy of UNDP)
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BEIRUT: After the explosion that shook Beirut on 4 August, international aid poured over Lebanon to help in the humanitarian crisis and in the reconstruction efforts.

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.

The report aims at ensuring that the people’s recovery, especially the most marginalized, are prioritized over physical reconstruction in response to the Beirut port explosion.

“The goal of the report was to re-shift the focus on human tragedy and not only on the dollar cost of the buildings,” Nino Karamaoun, UNDP Chief Technical Advisor Rule of Law and Human Rights, told Annahar.

Karamaoun explained that the response to previous tragedies such as the post-civil war recovery efforts and after the 2006 war reconstruction efforts, left behind many vulnerable communities.

“It’s not what should be done to rebuild Beirut but how it should be done. We have the chance to rebuild Beirut practically from scratch, so let’s build it well,” Karamaoun said.

More than 100,000 people have lost their jobs due to the Beirut port blast, while 300,000 suffer from displacement.

“Reconstruction must be informed by the social, cultural, economic, and political trends that shaped Beirut's urbanization over the past decades. must account for people’s voices, narratives and daily experiences,” stressed Mona Harb, professor of urban studies and politics at the American University of Beirut and co-author of the report. 

44-year-old Rania, a Syrian refugee and mother of 3 children who are now shelter-less, stated that her landlord kicked her out of her house one day after the blast.

“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 explained. 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.

“This blast blew up sixty years of hard work. It took away a business that was once my source of pride and the source of income for more than two families,” Toufic, a 75-year-old shop owner in Gemmayze, said.

Toufic never thought the day would come where he’d see the end of six decades of business.

“Look at the floor. On each tile, there is an invisible drop of my sweat and my blood that I gave in developing this place,” he says while tears fill his eyes.  Just like any other business owner, Toufic is afraid he might not be able to recoup
the losses of the blast.

Thousands of businesses have been destroyed as a result of the August 4 blast, leaving more than 100,000 people without a current income.

As a response, UNDP is prioritizing the restoration of livelihoods and small businesses to support people like Toufic and his employees.

Thousands of businesses are unable to resume their operations without aid, therefore supporting them is a must to ensure an adequate recovery that is inclusive of those who lost their income due to the Beirut blast.

The Beirut port explosion came along as the socio-economic crisis and the COVID-19 crisis have together impoverished over 2.7 million people,
qualifying 55% of the Lebanese as poor and forcing 86% of families in greater Beirut to live on less than 200$ a month.

The economic repercussions of the explosion extend far beyond the immediate district of the Beirut port, and have affected the whole country.

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