NATIONAL IMPACT BEIRUT EXPLOSION RESPONSE: REVIVING AFFECTED COMMUNITIES
• A massive blast ripped through the port in its capital, Beirut, on Aug. 4, killing at least 160 people, injuring 6,000 more, displacing up to 300,000 and damaging more than 50,000 residential and non-residential units across the city. Officials have said it was caused by the detonation of chemicals stored there, without saying whether it was an accident or an attack. The tragedy piles yet another layer of hardship on a country already reeling from its worst financial crisis in decades and struggling to contain a burgeoning coronavirus outbreak.
• The badly damaged port facility is Lebanon’s largest maritime gateway, and while the second-biggest port Tripoli has been designated as the alternative, authorities are worried how the import-dependent country will bring in badly needed food, medical supplies and other goods. Lebanon has already been struggling under the weight of its economic meltdown, with the rapid devaluation of the local currency and a volatile exchange rate on the black market fuelling inflation, shuttering businesses and plunging many people into unemployment and poverty. Imports have become prohibitively expensive as a result, forcing the central bank to dip into its reserves to subsidize wheat, fuel and medicine. Fuel shortages and bread lines have become common.
• In the affected neighborhoods, commercial activities at a street level consist of shops and small industries dispersed across the area. These predominantly serve locals, but also a city-wide array of consumers seeking affordable products and services. Majority of the shops and workshops in the neighborhood are micro sized , with 10 employees or fewer. Based on the needs identified through an initial field visit to the affected areas showed that apart from reported casualties and injuries, the livelihood sector in these areas is experiencing a drastic decline in their daily activities because of material damages inflicted by the blast. According to a report published by UN-HABITAT in 2017, in terms of the number of commercial premises, shops account for 83% of economic activities in the neighborhood, which are divided into different categories, including food and groceries (30%), boutiques (17%), beauty salons (11%), electronics and phones (14.5%), hardware-furniture and storage (13%), and restaurants and cafes (6%). There is also a number of workshops that account for 17% of commercial premises (Small industries and craft-works of gold, shoe, and leather production).
Support small businesses in the affected neighbourhoods to weather the explosion storm as they move from shutdown to recovery, based on customized assistance models that could empower business owners to mitigate the impact of this devastating shock and positively recover.
APPROACH AND MAIN INTERVENTIONS
The NATIONAL IMPACT approach will be based on lesson-learned from the team’s past and ongoing experience in Lebanon and across the world, which showed that supporting small businesses activities is a key driver for resilience, improved household income level, and recovery. In this respect, the project will focus on responding to the actual needs/demands of the markets and on promoting adequate solutions to the current socio-economic challenges faced by small businesses in the affected neighborhoods. The project main interventions/components will include:
• Mobilization and organization of targeted/affected communities: The project will adopt a participatory approach to all project activities. Awareness campaigns and workshops will be organized to inform all stakeholders of the objectives of the project and involve them in the decision-making process. •Supporting the Sustainability of Income Generation Activities of targeted/affected communities: The project will also facilitate the repair/rehabilitation (or upgrading) of selected enterprises through the provision of cash assistance (cash for work for local labor hand) and/or in-kind grants (repair/rehabilitation materials and small machinery). Resources provided to support these activities will contribute to progressive recovery of local markets, increase commercial productivity and local supply, and diversify the economic base in project targeted areas.
TARGET BENEFICIARIES AND AREAS
Gemmayze, Mar Mikhael, Achrafieh, Karantinaand Burj Hammoud
• The NATIONAL IMPACT team has extensive local and international experience in assisting both in the development of the industrial sector and the establishment of economic investment and production groups. The team also has extensive experience in working in conflict and post-conflict areas and has successfully implemented several livelihood projects in many Arab countries.
• The NATIONAL IMPACT team also has the necessary experience and technical knowledge to identify the most vulnerable target beneficiaries and provide them with the appropriate support. A Project Management Unit is already in place in Lebanon and is further supported by a wide-ranging network of partners, international experts and associate organizations to define the strategic direction of the project and assist in its implementation.
• The 3-months project will assist the selected small businesses in the affected neighborhoods, enabling them to recover from the blast and reintegrate the local market. It is expected that up to 100 businesses will be supported, directly preserving up to 2,000 jobs.
• Apart from the benefits of preserving businesses, the rehabilitation of the targeted beneficiaries will have a multiplier effect in creating more jobs especially for youth and women, as well as improving the quality of life of the neighborhoods’ population, increasing basic food and non-food supply and contributing to poverty reduction.
MASDAR will be implemented in line with the existing institutional frameworks. The NATIONAL IMPACT Senior Management team will:
• have the overall responsibility for the appropriate use of the donor funds,
• ensure implementation in accordance with NATIONAL IMPACT’s administrative rules and regulations,
• take responsibility for decisions regarding staff recruitment, contractual agreements, technical assistance, backstopping and project supervision, procurement, monitoring and reporting,
• rely on close coordination and cooperation with local NGOs, IOs and UN Agencies.
The empowerment of local small businesses in the affected neighborhoods is aimed at reinforcing self-reliance in order for beneficiaries to provide for themselves and not rely on aid agencies. In all stages, the project will aim at building confidence, meeting actual needs and ensuring that all stakeholders are part of the decision making process – therefore ensuring the sustainability of planned project interventions.