Watkins urges greater disaster readiness in Lebanon

Oct 29, 2012

The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Robert Watkins, visited today the Ashrafieh blast site and called for further steps to help the victims of the explosion and improve Lebanon’s disaster preparedness and emergency response capacity.

On 27 October 2012, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Representative, Mr. Robert Watkins, accompanied by the Head of Civil Defense, General Raymond Khattar, visited the site of the Ashrafieh bomb blast that took place on Friday 20 October 2012.

The aim of the visit was to assess the needs of the affected population and the response of the Lebanese emergency services following the bombing, as well as to highlight the need of the country to enhance its disaster preparedness and response abilities.

“Apart from the political instability that such a heinous act engenders, at a human level the bombing has caused tremendous suffering to people because of the injuries that many suffered and also because of the physical damages to their homes and businesses”. “The High Relief Committee has taken steps to help people and the UN has also set up a fund to channel donations of UN staff members to different organisations helping the victims, but we need to explore what more can be done to get people back on their feet” Watkins added.

The explosion in Ashrafieh underlines the urgency of passing new legislation that would see the establishment of a new Disaster Management agency with enhanced powers, covering preparedness as well as response. “With the adoption of the new draft legislation we can reduce significantly the loss of human lives and damage to infrastructure”. “While the response of the Civil Defense, in coordination with the Lebanese Red Cross and the security forces, was both immediate and effective, the new legislation will further improve the country’s ability to prepare for and respond to any kind of natural or man-made disaster”, said Watkins.

UNDP has been working with the Lebanese Civil Defense, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, since 2006 with preparedness for, and response to, all kinds of disasters disasters. The project, funded by the French government through a 2 million Euros grant, provides search and rescue equipment as well as ambulances and medical equipment. It also provides training to more than 350 civil defense employees and volunteers as members of the search and rescue teams in order to ensure the proper evacuation of victims.

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