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UNDP Response to Beirut Blast

In the aftermath of the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut, immediate support from the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) was prioritized for the restoration of livelihoods and small businesses; debris management; and access to justice for impacted vulnerable groups. This complemented urgent relief efforts of sister UN agencies in the first stage response. 

Over the recovery period, UNDP advocated for and supported the implementation of socio-economic protection measures aimed at protecting the people of Beirut affected by the impacts of the blast and all Lebanese. 

Effects of the blast go far beyond the immediate vicinity of the destroyed port. Around 10,000 enterprises in the direct vicinity of the blast have been destroyed or put out of business, leaving over 100,000 people unemployed and highly food insecure. Additionally, an estimated 300,000 people have lost their homes.

UNDP worked on reducing the immediate impact of the blast on food availability for the most vulnerable, through a mix of cash-for-work emergency employment schemes and the provision of family food security support.

"As we witness the people in Lebanon challenged again, it is now time to turn solidarity into action, " said UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner. "While responding to the emergency, we will continue supporting the country as it reforms and rebuilds its longer-term priorities. Together we can ensure that Lebanon will come out of this crisis even stronger."

The impacts of the blast extended far beyond Beirut also, compounding multi-faceted crises that Lebanon has been facing for years including spillover effects of the crisis in Syria and downwardly spiraling economic crisis, further complicated by a persistent COVID-19 outbreak.

The explosion has exacerbated vulnerabilities among several disadvantaged groups, including impoverished Lebanese, refugees and migrant workers. UNDP supported legal aid efforts in affected areas to provide counselling service, to help vulnerable groups safeguard their labour and housing rights.

A people-centered approach to recovery

Due to its proximity to the explosion site, the area of Karantina sustained the highest level of damage in terms of human losses and physical destruction. Assessments carried out by UNDP placed a special focus on Karantina, known to be historically marginalized and home to an already vulnerable population of diverse nationalities, ethnicities, and religions. More than 700 households resided in the neighborhood at the time of the blast, including migrant workers, refugees, as well as impoverished Lebanese families. Considerable damage was inflicted on the public hospital that served the impoverished populations in the area, leaving them with no access to healthcare. In a context of a deep economic and financial crisis, devaluation of the local currency and increased spread of the COVID19- pandemic, the explosion came to further affect the lives and livelihoods of the people of karantina. The already vulnerable dwellers are now left with no means to rebuild and restore their livelihoods.

Following the explosion, UNDP issued a flagship report focused on “Leaving No One Behind and the importance of an inlcusive and just recovery process in Beirut”. Experience has shown that in most recovery and reconstruction plans, the overarching approach is one focused on physical reconstruction. UNDP is advocating for a people-centered recovery process, and as such is compelled to work towards an inclusive and just recovery that preserves human dignity and rights, and that leaves no one behind. Given the overlapping and pre-existing vulnerabilities, an integrated response that caters to the immediate recovery needs of the people while ensuring longer term development and sustainability is crucial. UNDP is addressing post-blast recovery in Karantina as part of a larger area-based, urban recovery approach, in close coordination with the Municipality of Beirut and in partnership with other UN agencies and civil society organizations, drawing on shared technical expertise and know-how. This approach goes beyond the physical reconstruction to address livelihoods, access to services, an improved environment, as well as social, cultural, and legal support. It would provide UNDP with a pilot case for learning and replication in other affected areas.

Our response takes into consideration the social networks that links people to their neighbourhoods, restore their shared memories and address the vulnerabilities and risks that have long existed in the area in addition to those that emerged following the blast.

Building on our “Leave no one Behind” report and completed assessments of the impact of the blast on socio-economic conditions; damaged houses and small businesses; and debris management, UNDP is planning a two-phased response strategy in Karantina:

An immediate response over a period of 6 months which aims at addressing the immediate impact of the explosion on the affected population; including the rehabilitation of shelters, access to legal aid, support to small businesses, a new point of service at the Beirut Public Hospital in Karantina, psycho-social support, removal of construction and demolition waste, and introduction of energy efficient solutions.

A medium to longer-term response that extends over 12 months and addresses remaining needs and priorities in the area based on the vision and aspirations of the local community; including economic empowerment and job creation, neighbourhood improvement and community initiatives, and environmental solutions for sustainable waste management and a focus on trauma healing through documentation, commemoration, and social engagement.

The journey to recovery has begun

Informed by people’s needs, we have supported the people of Karantina through:

  • Restoring and repairing damaged buildings, including historical buildings, and residential houses. 
  • Supporting small businesses through renovation, replacing lost items, and assisting in rebuilding stocks.
  • Establishing to meet the health needs of vulnerable groups, particularly persons with disabilities. This includes setting-up a physiotherapy unit and providing medical equipment and supplies. 
  • Access to legal aid through the establishment of a legal helpdesk. 
  • Psycho-social support to the youth, women, and the elderly from diverse backgrounds, engaging them in trauma healing activities.
  • Supporting waste and rubble removal and providing households and public institutions with sustainable energy systems. 

The way forward

In addition to the immediate response after the blast, UNDP is introducing an urban recovery plan which reflects the vision and aspirations of the residents of Karantina. With a neighborhood diagnosis, a recovery vision, and action plans to realize the vision, the plan focuses on interventions at different levels, ranging from community engagement, rehabilitation of public facilities and services, to the transformation of public spaces. Owned by the local community of Karantina, it can serve as the strategic foundation for all stakeholders, partners and UN agencies to achieve sustainable recovery and transformation. By the end of 2022, the urban recovery plan is expected to be fully implemented in Karantina, with the prospect of becoming a key tool for a coordinated multi-stakeholder response and collaboration across blast-affected areas in Beirut.

What we have done

TRACK 1: Support immediate priority needs in Karantina
TRACK 2: Support the development and implementation of Karantina's Urban Recovery Plan and expand the approach to other blast-affected neighborhoods. 

Our approach to urban recovery

Area-based: Based on an integrated approach that takes into consideration the multi sectoral needs of the affected population.

Evidence-based: Based on and informed by our "Leave no One Behind" report, our innovative data management, and partnership with the American University of Beirut's Urban Lab.

Aligned with Lebanon's Reform, Recovery, and Reconstruction Framework (3RF), in particular Track 1 "people-centered recovery".

Inclusive: Based on the strong role and active participation of the community, with focus on women and the most vulnerable populations.

Download Factsheets: 
A new way of working 
Leaving no one behind in Beirut's Karantina

Key areas to the response