Najat Rochdi, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, spoke to UN News about how the country has coped over the past 12 months and what the future holds.
“I had only been in my new post as the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon for three days when the devastating explosions ravaged the port of Beirut.
The effects of these explosions are still felt a year later. The country is struggling to find a way out of a tragedy that has affected everyone.
The destructive fallout from August 4 intensified suffering in Lebanon, which was already reeling from civil unrest, economic and financial hardship, growing poverty and unemployment, made worse by a political stalemate and a growing number of COVID cases -19.
A year after this tragedy, the difficulties are getting worse and frustration is mounting. I have met many Lebanese who have expressed their voices and faced the hardships and adversity that so many people experience in this country.
People like Youssef, a 59-year-old homeless man whose dream is to have a roof over his head and a door he can close when he sleeps and Cathy, who is 15, who is single desire to own a mobile phone so that she can access online learning.
Or Mirna, a 50-year-old teacher who used to make a living and support her family, but now can only afford one meal a day and is forced to seek help. She told me with tears in her eyes “They took my dignity”.
The situation “is getting worse day by day”
It is clear to me that the situation of ordinary people in Lebanon is worsening day by day. Currently, the UN estimates that more than one million Lebanese (out of a population of nearly eight million, including more than two million refugees and migrants) need emergency assistance to cover their basic needs, including access to food, health, education and water.
In addition, nine in ten refugees live in extreme poverty, an increase from 55% from the previous year. More than half of migrants in Lebanon say they were unable to meet their food needs, and the same number of migrants reported being unemployed (the majority having lost their jobs in the last quarter of 2020 ).
Lebanon, which not so long ago was a high middle income country, is now probably facing the worst financial and economic crisis in its modern history; more than half of its population lives in poverty. It is perhaps not surprising that many people have lost confidence in their leaders and institutions.
Support for a better future
Despite the grim view, I believe, and many Lebanese too, that the country has great potential for a better future.
Immediately after the blasts, the United Nations and its partners responded swiftly and decisively to save lives and provide emergency assistance to those affected. $ 167 million was generously received for the United Nations Coordinated Flash Appeal, one of the best-funded appeals of 2020.
Support was provided to hospitals and health care centers for the continuation of basic services, especially with regard to COVID-19; damage to homes was assessed and emergency shelter kits distributed to ensure immediate safety and protection; water connections, including pumps and tanks, have been restored; hygiene and childcare kits, as well as in-kind food packages, were distributed; protective, psychosocial and mental health support services were provided; resources have been allocated to debris clearance efforts.
Critical repairs have also started for hospitals, primary health care centers, schools and housing, as the humanitarian community has turned to multipurpose cash assistance in support of recovery, livelihoods. and local markets.
On the recovery side, the United Nations, together with the European Union (EU) and the World Bank, and in consultation with relevant stakeholders, developed the Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework. Known as 3RF, it is a people-centered program rooted in participation, inclusion and social justice.
It is for people and felt by them. It envisions an innovative new way of working, based on partnerships, which bring together the presidency, government, parliament, civil society, the private sector and international partners, in addition to the EU, the World Bank and of the United Nations to ensure reconstruction. assets, services and infrastructure essential for equal access to quality basic services, as well as the implementation of key reforms. Its forward-looking priorities, programs and investments include social inclusion and protection; rehabilitation of housing and cultural heritage; municipal services and the environment; and resumption of activity.
Already, thousands of people have received legal assistance to deal with claims arising from the blasts. Several public buildings have been modernized with green technologies, health facilities have received essential medical equipment. Several schools and medical facilities have been reconstructed or partially rehabilitated. Thus, Lebanon begins the long and arduous process of reconstruction for the better.
“Emergency aid is not the solution”
But also, the recovery of Lebanon must coincide with the reform. Emergency aid is not the solution.
It is unfortunate that the Lebanese leadership has not been able to reach an agreement on the formation of a new government in the past 10 months, which has delayed urgent structural reforms to address the country’s many challenges.
It is a critical moment in the history of Lebanon. The combined scale, depth and multidimensionality of the political, socio-economic and humanitarian crises facing Lebanon are unprecedented and present an increasingly difficult landscape for the United Nations in the implementation of its mandates.
But in the end, the responsibility for averting the total collapse of Lebanon lies primarily with its leaders.
The UN supports Lebanon
Unfortunately, a year after my arrival in Lebanon and the explosions that rocked Beirut shortly thereafter, the situation continues to deteriorate. The UN is developing a 12-month emergency response plan that articulates collective priority responses to the critical humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable Lebanese and migrants affected by the situation; it complements the support already provided to refugees and host communities.
This is not a solution. It aims to link with and prepare for the transition to solutions to tackle the root causes of the crisis, which will only come from structural reforms and comprehensive and sustainable development interventions led by the government, including the implementation of full and inclusive government in its own right. directed social protection strategy.
I was inspired by the spirit, solidarity and courage of young Lebanese. The United Nations will continue to support Lebanon as it continues on the path of recovery and ultimately realizing its potential. However, the greatest capital is human capital and Lebanon can count on its women and men. Those who are committed not to leave the country despite the situation, those who use their creativity, their entrepreneurial spirit and their commitment to build a better Lebanon. It is the best hope for Lebanon ”.
Learn more about the UN’s work in Lebanon here