UNICEF trains Lebanon youth, provides paid local employment
Through a Cash for Work project funded by Germany through the German Development Bank KfW, over 1,000 of Lebanon’s youth have completed a total of 21,880 days of paid work while learning WASH and construction skills
A UNICEF programme supports Lebanon’s youth by providing training and access to paid employment. Through a Cash for Work (C4W) project funded by Germany through the German Development Bank KfW, more than one thousand of Lebanon’s youth have completed a total of 21,880 days of paid work while learning WASH and construction skills in the rehabilitation of four springs, five wastewater and stormwater channel and the construction of sixteen reservoirs. Crucially, the projects have been focused on ensuring the development of the youth beneficiaries’ home neighbourhoods.
Bilal is twenty-two years old. Fully kitted out in a high-viz vest, hard hat, and protective shoes, he’s part of a team guided by UNICEF implementing partner, national NGO LebRelief and working on resurfacing a major road in the densely populated Tripoli suburb of Tabbaneh. It’s hot, dusty, and physical work. But, right now, there’s nowhere else Bilal would rather be.
“That’s my home up there”, he says, pointing to an eight-storey tenement block overlooking the street. “I was born here, and I’ve always lived here. I have almost everything I need in my life right here – except for a job”.
As Lebanon continues to struggle under the weight of its continuing economic crisis, the hardest hit are its most vulnerable residents – including the nation’s youth.
Operating through partnerships with NGOs and international NGOs, as well as with private Lebanese companies and contractors, UNICEF’s Cash for Work programme targets addressing the basic needs of Lebanon’s vulnerable youths to help prevent the adoption of negative coping mechanisms. The programme intends to secure the livelihoods of acutely affected target groups in the short term.
As with all youth employed in the programme, Bilal receives a wage of US$9.50 a day – a higher pay rate than he could currently expect to receive within the challenging context of Lebanon’s job market.
Today, his task sees the conclusion of a UNICEF project to rehabilitate the area's wastewater infrastructure. He's proud of his work.
“This project gave me two huge opportunities”, he says. “I earned an income to help support my family, and I was able to be part of the restoration of a valuable service for my community”.
In nearby Merkebta, ten kilometres north of Tripoli, Siham is engaged in a similar wastewater project, although on an altogether different scale. Nonetheless, the change it will deliver for over seventy of the area’s isolated communities is destined to be life-changing.
Siham, twenty-five years old, is a refugee from Aleppo and now lives in an informal tented settlement five hundred metres from the channel she is currently involved in digging.
“Sewage regularly overflows in the camp and sits in pools around the tents,” she adds, “and when it rains, it runs past our door like a river”.
A mother of a three-year-old child, she comments that many of the camp’s youngest residents often fall ill due to lack of hygiene and notes that many have persistent skin infections.
The project will ensure that wastewater from her community and others is piped directly to the region’s North Lebanon Water Establishment treatment plant.
“The opportunity to do this for my community is a privilege”, Siham says.
Through UNICEF’s Cash for Work programme, beneficiaries are working to ensure the return of essential infrastructure leading to a sustainable development process while receiving the opportunity to earn an income - at least in the short term – and help secure their future.
Twenty-three-year-old Jennifer is studying to become a laboratory technician and works, when she can, as a supermarket cashier to help fund her studies. While she has committed to using her earnings to secure the continuation of her course, she’s also been empowered in other ways.
“Every day, I learn a little more”, she says. “Sometimes it’s technical knowledge, and sometimes it’s a greater understanding of the real cost of water management in the community. But, perhaps the most valuable lessons have been in the importance of teamwork, and, for the first time, I’ve seen how through collaborations between men and women, we can offer more to our communities”.
Due for completion at the end of 2022, the Merkebta project, funded by Germany through the German Development Bank KfW, will continue to train and employ youth on forty-day cycles, empowering many more like current Cash for Work beneficiary Omar.
“The most important thing I’ve learned is that I have the ability to do far more things than I thought possible,” he says. “Today, I have more hope for my future”.