Accompanying the Lebanese people along their recovery journey
By: The Accelerator Lab of UNDP Lebanon
The explosion in the port on August 4 continues to shake the lives of people in Beirut and across Lebanon. In the aftermath of the disaster, UNDP is focusing on maintaining continuity between its immediate response and longer-term recovery. Complementing immediate relief efforts, we have teamed up with different partners on the ground, prioritizing support to restoring livelihoods, safely managing debris, and facilitating access to legal services to people who have been affected.
Assessing material damages to the city, its infrastructure, and its economy is a priority for response planning. But such assessments will only be as useful as they put people at the center — their experience, their wellbeing, and their livelihoods. These assessments will be essential to guide the careful planning required for responding to urgent needs and growing vulnerabilities. They are also critical to prioritize the resources necessary to support the areas mostly affected by the blast and the Lebanese community at large.
A new instrument that UNDP has recently added to its assessment toolbox is the online rapid Socio-Economic Impact Assessment or SEIA for short. Through a questionnaire deployed at speed and with urgency, the SEIA allows us to look at a crisis through a human-centered lens. UNDP has recently conducted several SEIAs across the world to help guide its support to countries working to mitigate the devastating impacts of COVID-19.
The Beirut explosion came amid a worsening economic crisis and a COVID outbreak that has defied containment efforts, pushing the coping capacities of the Lebanese people to its maximum. We resorted to the SEIA tool to help us understand and map impacts of the explosion, in their many facets.
WHAT TOOLS DID WE USE?
In a situation where people are dealing with a great shock and many have lost their homes or had to relocate, we wanted to use tools that cause as little intrusion as possible and would not be burdensome to respondents to a survey. We resorted to using methods like Facebook ads and mining information, for example from the database of affected businesses generated by Lebanese Google employees.
We focused on tools that go beyond extracting information from people and instead allow for greater engagement with them, providing a channel for two-way communication, and soliciting their views and voice, at their own will and time.
Acknowledging the limitations of online assessments at times of crises, where access to internet, or at time to electric power may be limited, our online SEIA was well integrated with other means of data collection, especially field assessments that numerous youth volunteers and partners helped conduct.
Keeping a direct communication channel with affected people, one that preserves their privacy and yet allows for follow-up contact, fits well within how UNDP responds to the current crisis. We approach this not as an exercise of “planning a response” with pre-set interventions and results, but rather as an evolving process that engages people affected along their “recovery journey,” ensuring their voices are heard, their pain expressed and their views integrated in shaping recovery decisions, programs, and funding priorities.
THE RECOVERY JOURNEY
Formal assessments tell us that 300,000 people have been displaced, 40,000 homes damaged, and over 10,000 businesses can no longer operate. But, in addition to the numbers, we need to “see” the people behind each number and to make sure that as their recovery journey unfolds, people are informed, consulted and most importantly connected to the right resources, programmes, whether ours or provided through other partners who may be able to serve them.
UNDP will be following the response framework developed by the UN, addressing impacts of the crisis in three phases: immediate relief, recovery and reconstruction. To help build Lebanon forward along this continuum, we will continue to employ different information tools and be open to everyone trying to help. Many actors and groups are integral to this recovery journey and we want to engage as many of them as we can.
Data is not useful if stays locked in databases. It can be a critical asset for informing coordinated action by local authorities, civil society organizations, international partners, UN agencies and the many inspiring initiatives on the ground that citizen groups are starting.
Follow our website and social platforms as we continue releasing data, methodologies, and reports, in an open data approach taking cues from the many brave Lebanese people who have already started coordinating, organizing, and collaborating in ways that we can all learn from.
Please get in touch as we conduct more and more conversations on this recovery journey and let us know what you are working on.