Lebanon’s Youth – Rebuilding the City of Beirut – one house at a time

As part of its immediate intervention and utilising its C4W programme, UNICEF mobilised a youth network of over 1,900 and provided a response focusing on cleaning, and minor rehabilitation of houses

UNICEF Lebanon
C4W LEBRELIEF class
UNICEF2021/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon
03 August 2021

In the aftermath of August 4’s Beirut port explosion, UNICEF’s response was immediate and comprehensive. With initial estimates of 300,000 people directly affected – including 100,000 children – UNICEF set in process a programme of house-to-house surveys of families and a series of technical assessments of larger buildings in collaboration with partners on the ground. One of the priorities was to restore water to damaged homes, schools and hospitals and do so as swiftly as possible – while constantly remaining attentive to coronavirus best practices.

UNICEF’s rapid response leveraged one of Lebanon’s richest sources of the nation’s energy and strength – the country’s youth.

As part of its immediate intervention and utilising its pre-existing Cash 4 Work programme, UNICEF mobilised a youth network of over 1,900 and provided community-based response focusing on cleaning, minor rehabilitation of houses and, critically, involved many in the urgent reconnection of homes to municipal and private water supplies.

Cash 4 Work programmes create earning opportunities that can temporarily stabilise people’s incomes following a disaster or a crisis. The principle is simple: people work, and they receive pay. Cash 4 Work schemes are geared primarily to the most vulnerable and poorer members of society - those who cannot find employment in the local job market and can be regarded as a means of bolstering social safety nets and are intended to alleviate the strain of an ongoing crisis.

Crucially, they provided those on the programme with valuable knowledge and training and, one year on, their work continues at an incredible pace.

“We are working on training youth as painters and, in parallel, we are working with others on renovating houses damaged in the explosions that haven’t been repaired more almost a year”, 24-year-old Mohammad says, adding, “This is motivating us to take this area of our lives seriously”.

Countless, too, are examples of positive bridges of social cohesion built across genders as young men and women bonded through teamwork and a shared goal of successfully delivering their projects.

Twenty-three-year-old Rafah. One of hundreds of Lebanon’s youth participating in the clean-up and rehabilitation of Beirut
UNICEF2021/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon

23-year-old volunteer Rafah amplifies the sentiment, “I entered this programme because it is very nice to be an expert in a field of work, especially that this is very important in foreign countries like Europe. I feel this work I important not only for men but for women too”.

The port explosions impacted everyone on the programme personally – the events of August 4 affected the entire city. Today, youth engaged in the programme are receiving life skills training. Mohammad reflects that he can now more readily “control my emotions and mood”, and Rafah has found that “My personality has changed a lot. I was locked in a negative way of thinking, and now I am somewhere different”.

“There are no job opportunities in Lebanon”, she points out, “so this programme helped me a lot. Now, when I look forward, I feel I did something for myself, and this is a nice achievement”.

Twenty-four-year-old Mohammad. One of hundreds of Lebanon’s youth participating in the clean-up and rehabilitation of Beirut
UNICEF2021/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon

Her colleague Mohammad is equally upbeat about his time spent on the programme, saying, “I am happy that I gained a skill and I am still learning. To work on my future and achieve my goals to get a better future, especially in these difficult times, is something special”.

UNICEF Lebanon’s Adolescent and Youth Programme continues to grow its skills training and employment support service component through a pioneering Cash 4 Work programme to recognise the challenges faced by today’s youth.