The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is planning two donor conferences to fundraise for efforts to rebuild Beirut after a massive explosion devastated the city on 4 August, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
The explosion, which killed nearly 200 and injured thousands more, left 300,000 of Beirut’s residents homeless, damaged over 8,000 buildings including 160 schools and 640 historic buildings, according to UNESCO.
The organisation’s Director Audrey Azoulay said on Wednesday the first conference would be a meeting of the Global Education Coalition dedicated to Lebanon, the organisation set up to support remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
The explosion, Azoulay said, has affected the schooling of over 85,000 children in Lebanon, exacerbating the difficulties faced by a system that has struggled to adapt to remote learning.
The conference will focus on preparing the country to get children back to education, most likely online, at the start of the academic year next month and seek funds to rebuild damaged schools.
Azoulay put the cost of repairing educational establishments at over $22 million, based on a preliminary assessment.
Likely set for September, the second conference will aim to secure funds to repair Beirut’s culture and heritage sectors, which Azoulay termed “the soul of Beirut”, according to AFP.
Speaking at a press conference held at Beirut’s famous Sursock Museum on Wednesday, Azoulay said the cost of the city’s cultural repairs could top hundreds of millions of dollars.
“We need several hundred million dollars for the heritage,” Azoulay was quoted by AFP as saying. “What UNESCO can bring is expertise, guarantees on transparency and guarantees on the integrity of the restoration standards.”
Azoulay surveyed the destruction in Beirut with Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun on Wednesday, visiting two schools in the badly damaged districts of Mar Mikhael and Gemmayze.
The UNESCO director later stressed the importance of rebuilding Beirut’s cultural heritage sites and was quoted by the National calling the historic regions of the city “area[s] that nurtured spaces of freedom”.
The UN agency’s fundraising scheme has been named “li Beirut”, meaning “for Beirut”. The name references the well-known song by Lebanon’s most famous artist, Fairuz.