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.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.