First round of grants helping entrepreneurs rebuild in Beirut

It has been just over three months since the deadly Beirut port explosion shook the city, killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands, and lead to the displacement of over 300,000 people. While an initial surge of support helped meet emergency needs, international attention has waned, along with the crucial funding needed to help people rebuild. As winter sets in, the need for safe shelter, access to adequate food, and heat is ever more acute. These needs are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a worsening economic crisis, which together have a devastating impact on people’s income, livelihoods, and wellbeing.

Knowing that short-term disaster aid alone would not be sufficient to effectively and sustainably help people recover and rebuild, NEF conducted a rapid assessment in the days after the explosion. The assessment identified livelihoods needs in the highly impacted, vulnerable neighborhoods of Bourj Hammoud, Karantina, and Khandak Al Ghamik. NEF then launched a Rapid Response Program to support businesses, employment, and safe shelter rehabilitation in these neighborhoods. The response draws on NEF’s local presence and partnerships in Lebanon and global expertise in crisis response. It is focused on livelihoods recovery (income generation and employment) to help people get back on their feet and return to work.

We are currently working to raise $1M to positively impact the lives of 7,500 vulnerable people, through direct support to 600 skilled workers, 600 small businesses, and 300 homes. With the support of generous donors, NEF has already raised $337,000 toward this goal, allowing for initial project activities to begin.

In early November, NEF began disbursing cash support to small business owners, to help them to recoup their losses and restart business activities. The initial 19 business served include grocery shops, minimarkets, motorcycle repair shops, butcheries, appliance stores, and salons.

To ensure complimentary in programming and avoid duplication of services, NEF has been working closely with other local and international NGOs and relevant working groups. Referrals for the entrepreneurs served to date, for example, came from Mercy Corps.

The cash support NEF provides to small business owners in Beirut is unconditional. This approach allows business owners to invest in their own needs, and those of their families, while also accessing crucial capital to rebuild their business. Unconditional cash-based approaches are a proven, cost-effective way to address both economic and food insecurity. They also create positive ripple effects, by stimulating the economies of local neighborhoods and offering indirect market benefits.

Women, youth, and people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted during times of crisis. As it does in all of its programs, NEF is mainstreaming protection across its response. Through training on protection topics, such as sexual and gender-based violence, child protection, and women’s rights, and through referrals to expert agencies, NEF builds vulnerable people’s understanding of rights and risks, promotes their economic independence and decision-making capacities, and increases access to resources and specialized services for survivors of gender-based violence.

In addition to providing small business support, NEF is coordinating with a local partner to serve vulnerable skilled workers in the response’s target areas. NEF is using a “cash for work” approach to subsidize the incomes of skilled workers and link them to priority repair projects in the target communities. This means crucial repairs can be made to damaged businesses and homes for free, while ensuring that skilled workers are paid for their work. This further buoys the local economy.

If the necessary funding is secured, NEF hopes to add a rapid skill-building element to its response that reskills people who previously worked in the Port of Beirut and nearby warehouses, helping them to diversify their skills and linking them to employment.

The support of our donors is critical to ensuring our work continues. Please consider donating to NEF’s Beirut Explosion Livelihoods Recovery Fund by clicking here.

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