Launch of the first edition the Wheelers Wheelchairs Basketball championship

Championing abilities through sports

April 24, 2024

Beirut, April 22, 2024: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs and with funds from Germany through KfW Development Bank launched the first edition of the Wheelers Wheelchair Basketball Championship in Lebanon.
The tournament aims to empower individuals with disabilities, supporting them to pursue their ambitions and realize their potential in sports. Eight teams of professional men and women wheelchair basketball players joined the tournament from different regions in Lebanon.

In Lebanon, one in seven people is already living with one form of disability. Persons with disabilities often experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes such as lower levels of employment, less education, and fewer athletic opportunities. Upholding the rights of people with disabilities is not only a moral imperative; it is a practical necessity. 
Through this initiative, persons with disabilities are supported in fulfilling their athletic potential at par with everyone else in society.

During the opening ceremony, H.E. Minister of Social Affairs Dr. Hector Hajjar said, ‎"I would like to thank UNDP Lebanon and KFW ‎for their support in organizing this tournament. I am here to learn from you, persevering players, ‎how to overcome challenges, for you are a school in patriotism and nation-building.‎ We also hope, as the Ministry of Social Affairs, to be able to contribute more to facilitating and ‎supporting sports activities for people with disabilities in all Lebanese regions."‎

In 2023, with the support of Germany through KfW and the UK Government, UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs provided nine high-end professional basketball wheelchairs to the Wheelers team. The new wheelchairs significantly improved the players’ performance allowing them to improve their skills and participate in professional tournaments. This basketball championship reinforces UNDP's commitment to inclusion in all aspects of development work.

UNDP Resident Representative a.i. Mr. Mohammed Salih expressed appreciation for the participating players saying, "I thank you for your dedication and professionalism not just in the context of this tournament but beyond it in your everyday life. It is your fundamental right to lead a fulfilling healthy life and pursue your dreams and aspirations, and it is our collective responsibility to provide you with the enabling environment and the necessary resources to help you advance in every aspect of your lives, including in sports."
He added that, "Today, we reaffirm UNDP’s commitment to inclusive development, leaving no one behind. I am humbled that we were able to contribute to the realization of this tournament, with the generous support of the German Government through KfW Development Bank, and in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs".

KfW Development Bank Deputy Director, Mr. Lukas Frank said, "During these trying times in Lebanon, the power of sports in maintaining physical and mental wellbeing cannot be overstated. Sports not only bring us closer together, fostering comradery and belonging but also provide an opportunity for social interaction and support networks.
We are delighted to stand alongside our partners in bringing this tournament to life, underscoring our shared commitment to inclusivity and empowerment."

He concluded, addressing the players "Your boundless enthusiasm and positivity are truly contagious, serving as an inspiration to us ‎all".

President of the Wheelers Basketball Team Ms. Paul Khalifeh welcomed the delegations and the teams saying, "I welcome you all and thank all those who played a part in making this championship a reality. I welcome all the participating teams in the first edition of the Wheelers Wheelchair Basketball Championship; you give us hope, and determination, and instill in our spirits the notion that nothing is impossible. ."

She concluded by announcing that the Wheelers club have now officially joined the Lebanese Basketball Federation, thanking the president and members of The Federation for the important morale boost.

UNDP supports Member States in implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and relevant sections of Agenda 2030 through transformational cross-sectoral work and by mainstreaming the principles of disability inclusion within its policy and programme work. UNDP also supports UN system-wide coordinated actions on disability.

For more information, please contact
In UNDP – Lebanon    | Maryam Sweid‎ | | +961 ‎(71) 366 212‎
UNDP is working in Lebanon since 1986 as a development partner supporting economic recovery, including working with municipalities to deliver basic services to host communities, promoting clean energy and solid waste management, strengthening governance and rule of law, providing support to elections, and working on empowering women and youth.