Beirut Blasts, one year on: UNESCO’s fight to shore up education, arts and heritage
The 4th August marks the one year anniversary of the horrific twin explosions in the port of Beirut, which claimed over 200 lives, injured thousands, and devastated swathes of this iconic city. 8000 buildings were damaged, of which 640 were historical buildings, and 208 were schools.
The damage went far beyond the physical wreckage: untold invisible damage was done to lives and livelihoods, educations, to the history of Beirut, and to its rich, diverse and vibrant cultural life.
Beirut has a unique place in the hearts of so many people across the Arab world and in the Arab diaspora. It is a cultural powerhouse where ideas and identities meet. For many the city is a symbol of resilience, entrepreneurialism, pluralism, optimism. In late August 2020 UNESCO embarked on a fundraising and rehabilitation initiative, LiBeirut, For Beirut, to meet the immediate needs of the education, culture and heritage sectors in the city.
The money raised has helped rebuild schools, historical buildings, and the cultural spaces so critical to keeping creativity and the arts alive. It’s a start, but there is still a long road ahead to saving this emblematic city from decline, and to preventing the brain drain of its finest students, artists and musicians.