In a video message to the Lebanese people, Guterres said he was deeply concerned about the difficulties he is facing, stressing the UN solidarity with the country.
Next week I will travel to Lebanon with a simple message: the @UN stands with you.
I look forward to engaging with people from all walks of life and from all communities to discuss how best to help overcome the crisis and promote peace, justice and human rights. pic.twitter.com/Plkr4CmG3J
– António Guterres (@antonioguterres) December 17, 2021
‘A simple message’
“I come to Lebanon with a simple message: the United Nations is at the side of the Lebanese people”, he said.
The Secretary-General’s visit comes at a time of crisis for Lebanon, which continues to be impacted by many challenges, including political upheaval, a crippled economy and the devastating August 2020 explosion in the capital’s port. , Beirut.
Mr. Guterres recalled that more than 200 people from more than a dozen countries were killed in the blast, with two children of UN staff among the victims.
“The explosion injured some seven thousand people, leaving many of them permanently disabled. He destroyed thousands of homes. I know the Lebanese people want answers and I hear your demands for truth and justice, ”he said.
“Your suffering is aggravated by the cumulative social, economic and political crises. The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the toll. ”
The UN supports Lebanon
The entire “United Nations family” is focused on supporting Lebanon and its people, said the secretary-general, who is due to arrive Sunday afternoon through Wednesday, according to the UN media advisory.
Mr. Guterres will meet with various leaders and representatives “To discuss how we can best help you overcome the crisis and promote peace, stability, justice, development and human rights. ”
He also hopes to have the chance to speak and listen to people from all walks of life and communities.
During the daily UN press conference in New York, Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that Mr. Guterres will meet with President Michel Aoun, President Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, as well as a number of religious leaders and members of civil society.
Put people first
The Secretary-General stressed that lasting solutions can only come from within Lebanon.
“It is essential that the leaders put the people first and implement the reforms necessary to put Lebanon back on track, including efforts to promote accountability and transparency, and to eradicate corruption,” he said.
© UNICEF / Kassem-Dabaj
Next year’s elections will be key, he added, and. The Lebanese people must be fully engaged in choosing how the country moves forward.
“Women and young people must have every opportunity to fully play their role. This is the only way for Lebanon to lay the foundations for a better future ”, he said, adding that “The United Nations will support Lebanon every step of the way”.
Young people live in peril
Meanwhile, at least one million children are at risk of violence as the crisis escalates in Lebanon, according to a new report released on Friday by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
He warns that one in two children are at serious risk of physical, emotional or sexual abuse as families struggle to cope.
The report was released as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Dr Najat Maalla M’jid, was visiting the country.
Future in danger
“The crisis in Lebanon threatens the present and the future of millions of children. It is more than ever necessary to guarantee their protection against abuse, harm and violence and to protect their rights ”, she said.
The report finds that around 1.8 million children, or more than 80 percent, now suffer from multidimensional poverty, which exposes them to abuses such as child labor or child marriage to help their families. families to make ends meet.
The cases of abuse and exploitation of children treated by UNICEF and its partners rose from 3,913 in October 2020 to 5,621 a year later, an increase of 44%.
Forced to work
Documented cases of child labor has also increased by more than half, up 53%, according to a survey of UNICEF partner organizations, who said the issue was their top protection concern.
A survey in October found that 12% of families surveyed said they had sent at least one child to work, up from 9% six months earlier.
UNICEF said children as young as six now work on farms, on the streets and illegally sell fuel, putting them at risk of serious burns and even death.
During this time, young girls are at risk of being married, and one in five Syrian girls aged 15 to 19 in Lebanon is married.
Cases of domestic violence have also increased, civil society organizations report.
The proportion of women and girls seeking services for gender-based violence strongly increased over the past three years: from 21% in 2018, to 26% in 2019, to 35% last year.
Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon, stressed that the safety and well-being of children is closely linked to every pillar of a well-functioning society.
“It takes a village – food, shelter, health care, regular schooling, prosperous families and functioning social services and institutions – to help children grow up safe from harm. When society begins to collapse, children are extremely vulnerable to abuse, violence and exploitation.
Protect the children of Lebanon
The UN in Lebanon works to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation, including by reducing poverty; improving access to social services, education and health care; and working with the authorities to strengthen protection services.
Considerable effort is also being made to tackle social norms that normalize violence against children and make it culturally acceptable.
Najat Rochdi, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, said current shocking figures of child victims of abuse and exploitation must be reversed.
“No child in Lebanon, whatever their nationality, should be deprived of their basic rights to health, food, education and protection. They must be at the forefront of the government’s recovery plans, policies and practices, ”she stressed.