4 August 2020 to 4 August 2021 — One year ago to the day, a massive double explosion hit the port of Beirut. The human toll was heavy: more than 200 dead, more than 6,000 injured, 300,000 families left homeless. The capital’s neighbourhoods were devastated and disfigured for miles around. Burnt-out cars, glass-strewn streets, houses and shops reduced to rubble, the apocalyptic scene will forever remain in the annals of the city and etched in the hearts and minds of the people of Lebanon, scarred by the tragedy.
Nevertheless, resilience and the instinct of survival soon took over. The young armed with nothing but brooms to clean their city soon rushed to the rescue of their capital. The international community expressed its solidarity with the Lebanese people. Visiting Beirut on 27 August 2020, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, launched the Li Beirut (For Beirut) initiative from across the port. The initiative aims to mobilize the international community to support the reconstruction of the city’s educational and cultural sectors. “Beirut, a world city, a city of memory, a creative city, was in a few seconds, bruised in its flesh, in its deepest identity,” Ms Azoulay said in her appeal, which marked the beginning of a long year on the road to reconstruction.
85,000 students have had their access to education disrupted in Lebanon, with more than 220 schools damaged or destroyed by the double blast, along with 20 vocational training centres and 32 universities. In the immediate aftermath of the explosions, at the request of the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education, UNESCO was made responsible for leading and coordinating efforts to rehabilitate the schools in Lebanon. In this undertaking, UNESCO supports the educational system to ensure the continuity of learning, especially now as the official school year is about to start. The rehabilitation of schools is one of the fundamental conditions to enable access to primary and secondary education. It is also part of the path to turn humanitarian aid into more sustainable development.