Inclement weather swept through Lebanon again starting on 14 February, with the peak of heavy rain, thunderstorms, strong winds and flooding over the weekend. The effects were disparate throughout the country, with mainly the Bekaa, and to a lesser extent, the South, feeling the strongest consequences. Whereas, in the North and Beirut/Mount Lebanon regions rainfall was considered regular winter weather, not requiring an emergency response. Very few calls for assistance or urgent intervention were received in those areas. Overall, this storm was much less intense and devastating than the extreme weather experienced in January.
STORM PREPAREDNESS AND MITIGATION MEASURES
In the lead up to this most recent storm, partners have been working together tirelessly to make adjustments based on lessons learned. Additional risk prevention and mitigation measures were put in place to limit further impact on the most vulnerable Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities. More specifically, to support early warning, lists and maps of flood-prone sites and sites affected during last month’s storms were circulated among response partners. Advanced weather reports from the Disaster Risk Management Unit on possible severe weather conditions were also shared widely. The situation was closely monitored to trigger a response as quickly as possible. SMS were sent to refugees throughout the country advising them of the potentially harsh weather and possible being updated in the ActivityInfo shared platform and additional stocks were pre-positioned in some key locations. Preparedness information was spread through outreach volunteers, field workers, and whatsapp groups. Moreover, particularly in the Bekaa, detailed work with the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA) on emergency relocation site locations and relocation procedures, including transportation arrangements and measures for persons with specific needs, were prepared and shared with actors prior to the storm to ease the process.
Coordination was further strengthened through the widespread utilization of the harmonized interagency assessment and reporting tools developed (Extreme Weather and Emergency Tools):
• Referral form - to refer affected sites for a rapid needs assessment
• The phone survey - used by the emergency focal points to help prioritize sites for rapid needs assessment
• The Rapid Needs Assessment – a form to conduct on site rapid needs assessments (RNA)
• Emergency distribution tool – used by all partners distributing relief items to track distributions during the emergency
In addition, communication trees and geographical splits between partners, based on area of intervention and capacity, to conduct RNAs and provide response were further refined. These actions combined contributed to greatly enhancing the effciency of the response by enabling rapid identification of areas to prioritize during interventions as well as highlighting response gaps and sharing of information with all actors in the field.
At the same time, more mid to longer-term disaster risk reduction strategies are being developed and partners are working closely with MoSA, Ministry of Interior and Municipalities (MoIM) and at the municipal level on plans to mitigate flooding through site improvements, rehabilitation of infrastructure and relocation of sites where no improvements can make the areas safe in times of intense storms. Seven of the most affected sites by previous storms have been identified and efforts are on-going for their relocation. The matter was discussed between UNHCR and the Minister of Interior and Municipalities on 19 February.