The Sustainable Development Goals in Lebanon
The Sustainable Development Goals are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the earth’s environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity. These are the goals the UN is working on in Lebanon:
26 November 2020
Shock Waves: Months after a devastating explosion, Beirut residents are still trying to recover
“The Beirut port explosion was an explosion of hearts,” says 40-year-old Farah. “This explosion burnt our hearts.” Farah is speaking of the massive explosion that rocked Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, on 4 August. Over 200 people died, and thousands more were injured. The source of the blast was a large quantity of ammonium nitrate—a compound used to make explosives—that had been stored in unsafe conditions. The colossal explosions sent a mushroom cloud into the air and a blast wave through the city, levelling buildings next to the port and turning houses into rubble. “I lost many friends,” added Farah’s 9-year old son. Farah and her son are speaking in a small booth set up by the UN, on one of the streets most damaged by the explosion, to record people’s perspectives on the explosions. When the disaster struck the heart of Beirut, Lebanon was already reeling from civil unrest, economic and financial hardship, increasing poverty and unemployment compounded by political tensions and a soaring number of COVID-19 cases. This has been further exacerbated by the heavy burden of Syrian and Palestinian refugees. Even now, months after the explosions, “the scale of the loss and magnitude of damage remains massive, even overwhelming,” says Najat Rochdi, the UN’s Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator. “As I walk around Beirut every day,” she adds, “I listen to stories of shock and of loss. Women and men who have never had to ask for help, now reduced to handouts. Families who have had their homes and futures blown away. Children who no longer feel safe in their neighborhoods. Proud businesspeople who cannot access their savings, unable to start again.” In the wake of the blast, multiple UN agencies provided essential medicines and medical supplies, water, sanitation and hygiene services, psychological support, and rehabilitation and restoration efforts. Agencies involved included WFP, UNICEF, WHO, UNDP, UN-Habitat, UNHCR, UNIFIL and others. UN agencies and partners “are sparing no time nor effort to provide life-saving assistance to those who were directly affected by this horrendous blast,” says Rochdi. Support has included over 90,000 ready-to-eat hot meals, 44,000 food parcels for households, and 12,500 metric tons of wheat flour distributed to millers across the country. Water, sanitation and hygiene services were also provided to medical facilities, including more than 2,700 new water tanks and pumps were installed. In the months since the blast, the UN has been shifting gears away from emergency relief and towards efforts that will pave the way for longer-term recovery and reconstruction. “The port explosions served as a wake-up call but also as a window of opportunity to build back a better Lebanon,” says the UN’s Najat Rochdi. Indeed, real change has become the UN’s main concern amid the crises affecting Lebanon. Based on the findings of a Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment that the UN along with European Union and the World Bank produced in August to help support evidence-based recovery planning, the three entities embarked on the development of a people-centered Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework – the 3RF- that was launched on Dec. 4, exactly four months after the horrendous blast. The 3RF presents real solutions to the very real problems facing Lebanon. “We are not solely focusing on rebuilding Beirut and ignoring the Lebanese who are living in poverty elsewhere in the country,” says Rochdi. “We have committed to ‘Leave No One Behind.’” “I thought today is the day I was going to die” said a young man named Rakan who was overwhelmed by memories of how the explosions crushed his house, leaving his feet badly injured. “I fear that another similar thing might happen again,” says a woman named Roula, who lost her father in the blast and who, even now, jumps at every small sound on the street, trembling at the prospect of another blast. In spite of the blasts, many Lebanese people are undeterred, such as one man who said, “Despite everything, we are staying in Lebanon.” Interviews about the Beirut blast were compiled in this short video available on Facebook, YouTube and other UN Lebanon social media channels. It reached, in less than a week, over 700,000 viewers on social media platforms. The video is one of many activities by the UN Communications Group to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN and make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
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24 May 2021
UN Lebanon kicks off Vaccination Program for Staff and Dependents
“Vaccines are here! Hoping to get back to the things we love soon,” said most staff members, cheerfully while waiting for their turn at a Beirut hospital where the UN COVID-19 Vaccination Program kicked off on May 15. In order not to disrupt the National COVID-19 Vaccination program that is underway and managed by the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), the 1st jab was administered to staff members and their dependents over two consecutive weekends in May. This UN vaccination program is managed by the National Vaccination UN Coordinator, in coordination with the Global Vaccination Deployment Team, Lebanese Ministry of Public Helath (MoPH) and WHO Country Office in Lebanon. UN Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi said the UN vaccination program, which has been closely and successfully coordinated with MoPH, allowed thousands of staff members and their eligible dependents access to the COVID-19 vaccine at a time when the country is facing one of its worst socio-economic crises. “This helps reduce the burden on the government and ensure that more people get vaccinated to help flatten the curve on the virus and get back soon to the things and the people we love,” Rochdi said. “Our hope is that everyone in Lebanon, including migrants and refugees, get vaccinated,” she added. Present on site was the UN Joint Medical Service led by Medical Doctor Josette Sfeir and her team of nurses who worked relentlessly to ensure a successful process, coordinating efficiently between staff and the hospital personnel. “Today we reached an important milestone in our fight against COVID19. We committed to our staff’s health, safety and well-being and kept our promise by offering them easy access to the vaccine. It is only by protecting them that we can go back to normal and continue our joint mission to serve others,” said Dr. Sfeir. “The process was extremely easy and smooth. I’m grateful for the UN’s support and for offering us the vaccine. Today, I feel relieved and protected,” said Afif Barakat, security officer at ESCWA. “Like most staff members, I was thrilled to learn about the UN vaccination program in Lebanon. I’ve been working round the clock with all WHO staff to respond to the COVID-19 crisis since the very start of the pandemic, and I had seen what this virus can do to people. We all felt scared from this deadly disease and wanted to be protected,” said Hala Habib, communication officer with WHO Lebanon.
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