Weekly Urban News Update
August 7, 2020
In This Update: 
Explosion in Beirut Kills Over 150, Injures Thousands Injured
Half a Million Children in Beirut Struggle for Survival
Beirut: A Look Back on Decades of Mismanagement
Improving Air Quality in Indian Cities Evident Before COVID-19 Lockdowns
The Accomplishments of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Its Thirtieth Anniversary
IHC Global Participates in UN Development Program Smart City Training Series
In the News And Around the Web
Explosion in Beirut Kills Over 150, Leaves Thousands Injured
Anger is rising in Lebanon following an explosion in Beirut on Wednesday that killed over 150 people and injured thousands. Public records show that Lebanese officials recognized the danger in storing the thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate responsible for the blast. Many residents see the explosion as another consequence of decades of political corruption and mismanagement in Lebanon. Prior to the explosion, Lebanon's debt stood at USD $3 billion as financial institutions such as the International Monetary fund asserted they were unwilling to provide more aid to Lebanon without significant reforms. It is estimated the current damage will cost the city USD $3 billion.

Read more here.
Half a Million Children in Beirut Struggle for Survival
On July 28th, a week before the deadly explosion in Beirut that killed over 150 and injured thousands, Save the Children reported that more than half a million children in Beirut are struggling for survival, as the impact of Lebanon's economic crisis coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic has left many families unable to afford basic food, electricity, cooking fuel, and water. Food and shelter prices have increased 169 percent while unemployment has risen 35 percent in the formal sector and 45 percent in the informal sector. Save the Children recommends that the Lebanese government implement transparent assistance packages and set up a social protection system for longer term shocks, but this week's explosion likely makes those services even more difficult to implement

Read more here.
Beirut: A Look Back on Mismanagement of Basic City Services
Over the past eighteen months, IHC Global has closely tracked events in Lebanon's cities as it became apparent that access to basic services, local political corruption, and diminishing public trust in city officials has played a critical role in rising discontent throughout the country. We revisit some of those past weekly newsletter articles here:
  • Tripoli: The Bride of Last Year's Uprising: Lebanon's secondary city has seen rising civil, religious, and ethnic strife. The "city of contrasts," is home to some of Lebanon's wealthiest individuals, yet 50% live below the poverty line. Rather than invest in city infrastructure, politicians are accused of providing free services in exchange for votes.
  • Beirut's Trash Crisis: Poor waste management in Beirut, including the lack of any official recycling system, has led to a city wide trash crisis. Informal waste pickers help mitigate the crisis, but increasingly those waste pickers are children under the age of 14.
  • Dying of the Light: Traffic Light Outages: As of mid-July, three quarters of Beirut's traffic lights were out. The installation of traffic lights and investment in traffic management after the country's civil war in the 1980s increased residents' faith in their local government. A Lebanese soldier explained rising anger at traffic light outages: "This is the most basic symbol of a state, but what can we do- this is the state we have."
Improving Air Quality in Indian Cities Evident Before COVID-19 Lockdowns
Since the start of India's lockdown, visibly clearer skies suggest that minimizing industry and transportation decreased the country's notoriously high pollution levels. But, the World Bank reports that India's began to decrease its unhealthy PM2.5 levels in 2018, two years before the COVID-19 pandemic. Between 2018 and 2019, major cities across India such as Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai saw a decline in the number of days that recorded poor air quality. Improvement of air quality in India may reveal future economic benefits: the World Bank estimates that the loss of welfare of Indians due to harmful PM2.5 levels equals in magnitude 5.9% of India's GDP.

Read more here.
The Accomplishments of the Americans with Disabilities Act on its Thirtieth Anniversary
Since the start of COVID-19, cities around the United States have increased pedestrian space by closing streets to cars. At CityLab, Sarah Hendren explains that the quest for more accessibility in cities originated in decades of advocacy and action by disability activists which led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, thirty years ago this summer.. Before the ADA, changes to the built urban environment faced opposition from legislators. This includes sidewalk curb cuts which now make it possible for wheelchairs to move from street to sidewalk. One activist recalled that: "[Legislators] told us: 'Why do you need curb cuts? We never see people with disabilities out on the street. Who is going to use them?' They didn't understand that their reasoning was circular."

Read more here.
IHC Global Participates in UN Development Program Smart City Training Series
Yesterday, IHC Global participated in a training series on "How to Ensure Gender Inclusion for Smart City Services," hosted by the UN Development Program's Global Center for Technology, Innovation, and Sustainability. Elba Fuste Figuerola opened the conversation with an overview of the key issues involved in making sustainable and inclusive smart cities. IHC Global Program and Policy Coordinator Natalie Gill spoke about how to use the Smart City Just City framework to empower women through technology especially through mobile phones. Verena Flues spoke about making mobility safer for women in cities around the world. 

The Center will post a recording of the webinar soon. Look out for it here!
In The News and Around the Web
  • Lessons From Global Homelessness During COVID-19: A In a recent event, World Habitat explored the importance of integrated health, robust data, partnerships, government action, and understanding the lived experience of homelessness.
  • Protests in Turkish Cities Rally Against Domestic Violence: On Wednesday, thousands of women in cities around Turkey protested the Turkish government's announcement it was considering leaving the Istanbul convention.
  • Understanding Urbanization in Indonesia: URBANET's latest infographic series displays urban trends in Indonesia.
Pictured: Beirut on Thursday, a day after the explosion of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate. 
(Wael Hamza/EPA)
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