LOOKING BACK IN LEBANON: How the UN responded to multiple crises in the past year?

The United Nations system in Lebanon released on 12 May its annual report for the year 2020, outlining main results achieved by the UN with its partners.

Mimi is a migrant worker from Ethiopia who came to Lebanon eight years ago looking for a better future. She found work but endured years of salary theft, no days off, and beatings from her employer. She fled her job without her personal belongings—including her passport. “I ran away from abuse thinking my life would get better,” she says. And it did get better. Mimi took on freelance work, got married to someone she loves, a Sudanese refugee, and they had kids. But then, with the advent of the pandemic, she lost her job. “Now I am undocumented with unregistered children and an unknown future.”

The UN in Lebanon was there to back her up, working with partners to provide cash assistance to 700 migrant workers and other people left behind during the pandemic. Mimi has gotten some much-needed support from the UN and partners. “Now,” she says, “I am able to see the light of my humanity and dignity again.”

Nurse Rawan with her colleagues were trained on Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) during the COVID-19 pandemic and equipped with PPE.

As COVID-19 swept the country, prompting shutdowns and interrupting the economy, the UN and partners trained thousands of healthcare and other workers on preventive measures. Rawan Chehadeh was one of the 282 nurses who benefited from trainings implemented by UN Lebanon with the Lebanese Orders of Nurses and the Ministry of Public Health.

Also in response to the pandemic, the UN supported the establishment of community isolation sites for those unable to quarantine at home, procured 73 fully-equipped intensive-care-unit beds and 800 regular hospital beds, provided food parcels to 50,000 of the poorest Lebanese households, and is now assisting with the national vaccination program.

In part with UN support, Hala and other families had their homes rehabilitated after the Beirut Port Explosions.

On 4 August 2020, a massive explosion rocked the capital city of Beirut, triggering a series of smaller explosions, killing over 200 people, injuring thousands more and flattening whole neighborhoods.

The UN in Lebanon was there to provide support, deploying expert relief response teams less than 24 hours after the explosions to assist with medical care, search and rescue operations, and assessing the health impact of the explosions.

Ten days later, a UN-coordinated appeal for financial support was launched to respond to the most urgent needs of 300,000 people affected by the explosions. By the end of 2020, the appeal had raised US $165 million.

The UN and partners helped restore water service to around 24,000 persons after the blasts, provided multi-purpose cash support to 91,552 persons, including cash for rent or shelter, and repaired or rehabilitated over 12,000 damaged homes, including that of 34-year-old Hala, who says, “Walking into our repaired home mended our broken hearts.”

Sundus and Sarab wash their hands in an outdoor sink with safe water provided by the UN, in North Lebanon.

The ongoing crisis in Syria has driven many thousands of people to take refuge in Lebanon, seeking work and freedom from the bombs and guns that have imperiled their lives back home.

The UN was there to provide support.  In 2020, and with the support of UN partners under Lebanon’s Crisis Response Plan, vulnerable Syrians and Lebanese were provided with safe water, food and cash assistance, as well as healthcare, legal aid and life-saving sexual and gender-based violence services.

UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Najat Rochdi.

“2020 was an exceptionally challenging year for Lebanon, and the people are still feeling the shocks of it,” says Najat Rochdi, UN Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon.

The COVID-19 pandemic. The explosions in Beirut. The long crisis in Syria driving refugees into Lebanon. These events are widely divergent in nature, but they are all reminders of how catastrophe can strike at any time and in any form, and they call for people who are ready to respond.

And these are just some of the areas where the UN responded. Indeed, the UN in Lebanon was built for such situations, and its work in 2020 is detailed in the new UN Lebanon Annual Results Report.

“Whatever we at the UN do—responding to emergencies, promoting peace and good governance, protecting human rights, reducing poverty and gender inequality—our aim is always to serve Lebanon and its people.”

Read more in the 2020 UN Lebanon Annual Results Report.

Written by
Nadine Abi Zeid Daou
National Information Officer
Nadine Abi Zeid Daou (RCO)
UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Labor Organization
International Organization for Migration
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations Human Settlements Programme
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Information Centre
United Nations Children’s Fund
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
United Nations Office for Project Services
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon
United Nations Truce Supervision Organization
United Nations Volunteers
World Food Programme
World Health Organization