‘Safe Cities’ Report in Beirut Reveals Lack of Safety, Basic Services in Urban Areas

A new report of a scoping study conducted as part of the ‘Safe and Sustainable Cities’ (SSC) initiative in Beirut, Lebanon reveals that a lack of safe public spaces, lack of access to basic urban services, and deteriorating infrastructure all increase risks for women, children, and youth in urban areas, mainly in the poor neighbourhoods which also include refugee camps located within the city.

The scoping study was conducted in four of the city’s most impoverished neighbourhoods and shows that urban residents— particularly women and children— experience fear in their own communities, with over half having witnessed physical abuse. Also contributing to a perceived lack of safety was unequal access to basic services. 86% of women surveyed reported problems with unsafe drinking water, and in the Karm el Zeitoun neighbourhood a full 65% of respondents reported issues with flooding due to faulty neighbourhood infrastructure.

Beirut is one of eight pilot cities —including Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Metro Manila (Philippines), Marrakesh (Morocco), Nairobi (Kenya), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), San José(Costa Rica) and Tegucigalpa (Honduras) — selected to participate in the ‘Safe and Sustainable Cities’ (SSC) Joint Global Initiative launched by UNICEF ,UN Women and UN Habitat. The programme is already developing innovative approaches to ensure the safety of women, youth and children in cities that can be used for worldwide replication by municipal authorities working in partnership with civil society, youth and grassroots groups, and national and local governments.

While all of the eight cities’ initial studies highlighted urban risks and inequalities, Beirut was presented with the added challenge of shedding light on the concerns of the often overlooked refugee population.  The survey included residents of two Palestinian refugee camps: Ghawach and Daouk. Dwellers cited lack of electricity, problems with flooding, and unsafe infrastructure as major concerns.

In a meeting with representatives from the four neighbourhoods, Mr. Bilal Hamad, the Mayor of the City of Beirut, confirmed that the Municipality will adopt the report recommendations and the proposed action plans, and will work closely with communities and national and international institutions to extend basic service coverage, build capacity to enhance community and city resilience, and support targeted infrastructure upgrades to  create a more secure, equitable urban environment for all.

For more information on the Safe and Sustainable Cities initiative please contact Kerry Constabile, Urban Specialist: kconstabile@unicef.org

For access to the full study please contact Tarek Osseiran: tarek.osseiran@undp-lebprojects.org