Lebanon

Empowering local authorities through Regional Technical Offices in Lebanon to respond to COVID-19

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Raising awareness on the importance of hygiene in the fight against COVID-19 © UN-HABITAT

Beirut, 31 March 2021 – UN-Habitat’s Regional Technical Offices (RTOs) in Lebanon’s coastal cities of Tyre and Saida have been mobilized to provide critical capacity and technical support to the COVID-19 response.

The RTOs’ involvement directly supported the implementation of the national Government’s national directives on COVID-19 aimed at curbing and responding to the evolving COVID-19 needs through the support of governorates and local authorities. Responding to this call, municipalities and unions of municipalities undertook multiple steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 and respond to the needs of their communities, including the most vulnerable.

“The RTO is of great support, especially because it can adapt to any changes and is able to respond to any interventions including crisis management as shown during the COVID-19 pandemic, and every union/municipality should have an RTO,” said Hassan Dbouk, Mayor of Tyre and Head of the Union of Tyre municipalities

The RTO tool and model was conceptualized by UN-Habitat following the 2006 July War to address the need to enhance the capacities of local authorities in their rebuilding efforts. The RTO approach has provided 14 unions of municipalities with technical support to enhance local governance and capacity building of local authorities, channelling UN-Habitat’s normative expertise to local authorities, through strategic partnerships with municipalities.

More than 400,000 people have tested positive for COVID in Lebanon and local authorities have been on the frontline of managing the spread of the pandemic. RTOs have filled a critical capacity gap in key cities in Lebanon during this challenging time.

The RTOs in Tyre and Saida El-Zahrani implemented national directives, including holding awareness-raising sessions, implementing safety and health measures, identifying and preparing isolation centres and monitoring the spread of the virus through infection rates tracing in their respective areas. They were tasked with conducting a full study to identify and assign official isolation centres, while assisting vulnerable families which are heavily affected financially by the recurrent lockdowns to apply for cash support through online platforms.

“Since its inception, the RTO proved to be a game-changer for municipal work, from collecting and processing data, following up on the implementation of municipal projects, proposals and much more. On the COVID-19 level, the office played a huge role in food parcels coupon distribution, launching and maintaining platforms, mapping, reporting and much more. This couldn’t have been accomplished without the RTO’s support,” said Mustapha Hijazi, Saida municipal board member.

The RTOs also played a key role in facilitating collaboration with different NGOs/INGOs, and reported on COVID-19 transmission rates and compliance of community members and businesses with safety measures within their respective municipalities on a daily basis to the Prime Minister’s Disaster Risk Management unit.