Thousands of people with physical disabilities are unable to access new buildings being reconstructed in Southern Lebanon, according to a new report released here.
Assessments conducted by UN-HABITAT in cooperation with technical offices in the unions of Tyre, Jabal Amel and Bint Jabeil in Southern Lebanon revealed that accessibility for people with disabilities to public spaces and buildings, as well as to private houses, had not been taken into consideration in the reconstruction work going on in the towns.
The findings were presented during a consultative seminar entitled “Towards a Barrier Free Environment”, which was held on May 8, under the auspices of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities and co-organized by UN-HABITAT, the three unions of municipalities and the Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union.
The seminar was a follow up to another meeting organized by UN-HABITAT in March 2008 on “Enhancing Post-War Shelter Reconstruction”, which pushed for mainstreaming of accessibility in the reconstruction process, an issue that was largely ignored by concerned international, national and local stakeholders.
The seminar also focused on the various legal, technical and financial requirements to apply engineering accessibility measures, and the role of the international community as well as the government to promote a barrier free environment.
Presentations were made by key speakers representing unions of municipalities, the NGOs, the Italian Cooperation, the Dutch Embassy in Lebanon and the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon. The representative of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities presented highlights on the incentives it was providing to encourage municipalities to implement engineering accessibility measures to voting booths.
The seminar was part of UN-HABITAT’s two-year project entitled “Good Governance for Enhanced Post War Reconstruction” which is co-funded by the Dutch, Cyprus and Finnish Governments. It was part of efforts to bring together Government, civil society organizations and the donor community in Lebanon to develop a cooperative approach to address emerging post-war reconstruction needs in southern Lebanon.
Also, the same day, May 8, the Minister of Interior and Municipalities, UN-HABITAT and UNDP organized a ceremony to reward 108 local elected leaders who took part in a capacity building project targeting the six communities surrounding Naher El Bared Camp for Palestinian Refugees.
The event, which is part of a joint UN-HABITAT and UNDP initiative funded by the Italian Cooperation and implemented in cooperation with the International Management and Training Institute, came as a result of the fierce clashes that erupted in May 2007 in the refugee camp between the Lebanese army and militants from the Fath El Islam radical group.
Given the level of destruction and adverse impacts among communities and livelihoods, the program aimed to strengthen local governments and NGO representatives to enable them to participate effectively in the reconstruction and rehabilitation phases. As a result of the six-month project, 108 local leaders were equipped with the skills and capacity to act as effective partners in all aspects of the recovery plan.