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Paving paths in Lebanon

Paving paths in Lebanon
How German funds are building roads and resilience

How did you go to school?

On a school bus, dropped off by your parents, walking, cycling? Whatever the means, it probably wasn’t a hazardous experience.

Nine hundred children in Wadi Khaled’s Amayer and Rajem Issa villages walk to school and for them it is a perilous journey. The school is on a road half way up a steep hill overlooking Syria. There is no path, you cannot see around the corner and there is a sheer drop on one side.

Over the coming three months, the World Food Programme (WFP) and its local partner Danish Refugee Council (DRC) are running a construction project to fix those problems. 35 local Lebanese and Syrians are kitted out in hi-vis vests, hard hats and safety goggles. They are participating in the livelihoods project, cleaning up the 1.2km road, levelling and paving a footpath, and fencing off the drop.

The project is fully funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ. In 2017, BMZ gave WFP a US$32 million donation for livelihoods activities across Lebanon. The livelihoods projects are designed with the local municipalities and are designed to enhance community assets as well as provide skills development training to vulnerable Lebanese and Syrians.

Once completed, an entire community will have a safer route to get between Amayer and Rajem Issa.

The journey does not end there

The 35 participants have been trained in construction and asset rehabilitation techniques, transferrable skills which can be used later on at similar infrastructure projects wherever they may be.

Thirty-four-year-old Mahmoud arrived in Lebanon four years ago with his four children. Before he left, he worked in a shop in Homs. “It’s not far,” he says, pointing across the valley.

“I never considered working in construction until I heard about this project,” explained Mahmoud. “It’s great because I know how to do basic construction when I go back to Syria. And there is a lot of construction needed in Syria now.” He points back at the border.

Participants are given safety equipment and training sessions before participating in construction activities. They are paid by the hour over the project duration, and receive daily transportation costs as well as a certificate of completion.

Inclusion in the programme is dependent on a few criteria, but primarily vulnerability, Lebanese and Syrian alike. Vulnerability is broad and participants come from a range of backgrounds. They are not the usual young-male stereotypes seen on construction projects across Lebanon.

Fifty-eight-year-old Lebanese Rafaa is participating for two reasons: to keep active, and to fund her disabled husband’s medical costs.

“He looked after me for years. Now I am supporting him.”

She is blind in one eye but that does not stop her working.

It is dusty, hot, hard work. But nobody is complaining.

Each participant has a different reasons for joining the programme: to alleviate debts, to learn new skills, to increase their employment opportunities.

Like students trekking up the hill each morning, nobody can see what is around the corner. For Lebanon’s most vulnerable communities, the future is even more uncertain. Opportunities are few and the path ahead is uneven. But with a paved footpath, the future is a little less daunting.

Find out about WFP’s work in Lebanon.