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Factsheet August 31, 2020

Q&A: Beirut Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment — August 2020

What is the Beirut Rapid Disaster Needs Assessment (RDNA)?

Immediately after the massive blast that rocked the port of Beirut on August 4, the World Bank Group (WBG) in cooperation with the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) launched a Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA) to estimate the impact on the population, physical assets, infrastructure and service delivery. The Beirut RDNA uses ground data and cutting-edge remote tools and technology to assess (i) damages to physical assets, (ii) ensuing economic losses, and (iii) recovery and reconstruction needs.

The RDNA recommends a framework for Reform, Recovery, and Reconstruction (the '3Rs') to build back a better Lebanon based on principles of transparency, inclusion and accountability. The "3Rs" framework combines people-centered recovery and reconstruction interventions with structural reforms that include macroeconomic stabilization, governance reforms, the private sector operating environment and ensuring human security.

Why does the Beirut RDNA matter and what are its objectives?

The key objective of the Beirut RDNA is to inform stakeholders on the disaster effects (damages and indirect losses) and recovery and reconstruction needs. More specifically, the Beirut RDNA:

  • Provides a preliminary estimate of critical physical infrastructure reconstruction and service delivery restoration needs in the immediate (September-December 2020) and short term (calendar year 2021);
  • Informs a preliminary reform, recovery and reconstruction (3Rs) framework, which will provide guidance on how to implement a comprehensive reform, recovery and reconstruction program;
  • Contributes to a more coordinated and coherent national and international effort for building back better;
  • Recommends assessments and analyses that will be critical to an exhaustive understanding of the impact of the crisis and developing a medium- and longer-term recovery program.

What does the Beirut RDNA cover?

Temporal Scope: The Beirut RDNA focuses on the impact as well as the recovery and reconstruction needs as a result of the Beirut explosion. Damages, losses, and needs calculations were made relative to a pre-explosion baseline of physical assets. Baseline data was collected from the Government of Lebanon, the Municipality of Beirut, and other stakeholders, and supplemented for corroboration and triangulation by publicly available and ground-based data.

Geographic Scope: The Beirut RDNA is limited to the impact zone in the Greater Beirut area with a major focus on the worst affected areas within a five-kilometer radius of the explosion site.

Sectoral Scope: The Beirut RDNA covers the damage and needs in the following 16 sectors:

  • Macro Economy: A macro-economic assessment that identifies: (1) losses in economic activity caused by the destruction of physical capital; (2) trade disruptions resulting in higher transaction costs of external trade; and (3) the loss of fiscal revenues for the Government.
  • 5 Social Sectors: Housing; Health; Education; Culture; and Social Protection and Jobs
  • 4 Infrastructure Sectors: Transport and Port; Energy; Water Supply and Sanitation; and Municipal Services
  • 3 Productive Sectors: Commerce and Industry; Financial; and Tourism
  • 3 Cross-cutting Sectors: Governance; Social Sustainability and Inclusion; and Environment

Sector studies undertaken as part of the Beirut RDNA will be published separately as background papers to support the operationalization of the RDNA findings and recommendations.

RDNA needs are only for the time period till December 2021. The RDNA doesn’t provide the needs for an entire recovery and reconstruction program that would be needed after the explosion disaster. Needs presented in the RDNA report are the priority needs in various sectors of the economy for service delivery and critical infrastructure reconstruction. A comprehensive damage and needs assessment usually takes time (usually 2-3 months), therefore, the RDNA is recommended as a first step to make sure that immediate and short term needs of the population are promptly identified and met.

What are the Beirut RDNA key findings?

Given the rapid nature of this assessment, the report offers low and high range for values of physical damages, economic losses and priority needs for Calendar Year 2020 and Calendar Year 2021.

  • Damages: US$3.8-4.6 billion, with housing and culture sectors most severely affected.
  • Losses: US$2.9-3.5 billion, with housing being the most hit followed by transport and culture.
  • Priority Recovery and Reconstruction Needs: US$1.8-2.2 billion, with transport needs highest followed by culture and housing.


  • Losses in economic activity due to destruction to physical capital.
    • Up to 0.4 and 0.6 percentage point (pp) declines in the growth rate of real GDP in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
  • Loss of fiscal revenues.
  • Possible trade disruptions resulting in higher transaction costs of external trade.
    • Import constraints could subtract an additional (upper limit) of 0.4 and 1.3 pps from growth in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
  • Higher inflation and higher poverty rates

How was the data collected for the Beirut RDNA?

The assessment followed a two-tiered, hybrid approach, utilizing ground-based and remotely collected data. Over the span of a few days, hundreds of surveyors visited sites across the assessment zone to identify the extent of damage to various assets. During the assessment process, surveyors were asked to include geocoordinates of the buildings and take extensive photographs of the damage. In total, over 18,000 photographs of building-specific damage have been compiled. Data from questionnaires and templates, including ground surveys and facility interviews, were verified through desk reviews using other assessments and ground-based data, social media analysis, and publicly available data (PAD), as well as other remote data tools. Given the challenging conditions due to the rubble and infrastructural damage, using remote data tools gave unprecedented access and a view of the damage to the various sectors. The baseline and damage information for each sector’s assets were developed using a combination of sources, such as data from the Lebanese Red Cross, a geographic information system (GIS)-based system, crowd-sourced data and information, social media verification, high resolution satellite and drone imagery, ground-sensors, and anonymized cell phone data.

The Beirut RDNA benefited from the generous financial support of the State and Peacebuilding Fund (SPF), a global multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank to finance critical development operations in situations of fragility, conflict, and violence. The SPF is kindly supported by Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, The United Kingdom, as well as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

How were the views of various stakeholders reflected?

The Beirut RDNA adopted a "Whole of Lebanon" approach to ensure that the assessment is grounded and representative of the immediate- and short-term needs and priorities of the Lebanese people. Between August 17 and 21, 2020, the RDNA team organized more than 40 Stakeholder Feedback and Engagement Meetings inviting more than 300 stakeholders — including, but not limited to: relevant government entities and municipalities, civil society organizations, NGOs, INGOs, professional associations, private sector organizations, think tanks, academia, youth groups, donors, UN agencies... Special attention was made to include stakeholders actively involved in the process of assessing damages, providing aid, and reconstructing Beirut. Meetings were held virtually or in-person and included a large group of stakeholders or one-on-one discussions to adapt to the COVID-19 operational circumstances and to the strict timeframe of the RDNA. The Stakeholder Meetings were divided into Sector Specific Meetings or Generic/Strategic Meetings. Sector Specific Meetings gathered stakeholders with expertise in one of the sectors covered by the RDNA. There were also other meetings that gathered stakeholders from a wide array of expertise and the input received was channeled to relevant sector teams by the RDNA core team before the finalization of the RDNA.

How were the estimates of damages, losses and reconstruction needs calculated?

The Beirut RDNA assesses (i) damages to physical assets; (ii) ensuing economic losses; and (iii) the recovery and reconstruction needs. It does so by combining and triangulating ground-based data and remotely collected data, obtained through high resolution satellite and drone imagery. Damage is estimated as the replacement value of totally, partially, or minimally damaged physical assets. Losses are estimated in the flows of the economy that arise from the temporary absence of the damaged assets and estimates the resultant impact on post-disaster macroeconomic performance. Recovery and reconstruction needs are divided into two broad categories: infrastructure reconstruction and service delivery restoration and are costed in the immediate and short-term.

Reconstruction needs across the various sectors convert the damages to current prices, considering inflation, security, and insurance premiums, as well as a "build back better" factor. Recovery also needs to take into account the "softer" and non-infrastructure–related aspects, such as staffing, equipment and/or material, which are necessary to provide services at par with pre-disaster levels. Once calculated, both recovery and reconstruction needs are prioritized and distributed over the immediate and short term. Based on the estimation of damages as well as qualitative impacts, each sector has specified recovery needs and suggested sequenced priority interventions. This includes the cost of reconstruction of destroyed assets, the provision of services, improved specifications, and risk reduction measures.

How will the reconstruction process reflect the needs and priorities of the Lebanese people?

The Beirut RDNA calls for building back a better Lebanon based on the principles of transparency, inclusion and accountability. This process should be based on a "Whole of Lebanon" approach, bringing together government, civil society, the private sector, activist groups, youth groups, think tanks, academia, and the international community around a common vision and strategic objectives. Stakeholder feedback and consensus building will be necessary to inform the scope, design, institutional arrangements as well as the monitoring and accountability framework of a comprehensive build back better program. Such a program should directly address the urgent needs of the affected population while ensuring that results are delivered in an efficient, equitable and transparent manner.

How will the Beirut RDNA help with rebuilding Beirut?

The Beirut RDNA will inform the development of a reform, recovery and reconstruction framework (3R) that will set the ground for a comprehensive, medium-term program. This framework would be structured around strategic pillars that could include: (a) Reforms to promote citizen trust and improving governance; (b) People-Centered recovery, and (c) Reconstruction of critical assets, services and infrastructure. In line with these strategic pillars, the Framework could be based on four strategic objectives: (i) Improving governance and accountability to help restore trust in the state; (ii) Restoring access to jobs and economic opportunities, and reviving the local and national economy; (iii) Strengthening social cohesion by reducing social tensions; and (iv) Restoring and improving basic services and physical infrastructure.

Four sets of policy and institutional reforms are critical to build back a better Lebanon: macroeconomic stabilization, governance reforms, private sector operating environment and ensuring human security.

How will donors, development partners work together to prioritize and coordinate reconstruction?

The Beirut RDNA will inform the preparation of a Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction (3R) Framework which will identify measures to operationalize the RDNA and follow on detailed sector assessments for a medium-term reconstruction program. The 3R framework is currently being developed in partnership between the UN, the EU and the WBG. The framework will include putting in place a program of reforms, recovery and reconstruction, governance mechanism that inspires confidence among all stakeholders, a financing facility that can offer options for pooled donor financing along with innovative financing options, delivery mechanism (e.g. NGOs, UN agencies), results framework, and an oversight mechanism. The development of this framework will rely on a comprehensive, people-centered and multi-stakeholder engagement process to ensure it answers the demands and aspirations of the Lebanese people.

How will development assistance be channeled and to whom?

The international community is committed to contribute to building back a better Lebanon, with the clear understanding that this process needs to be led by the Lebanese people. The commitment to a credible reform agenda will be a condition for accessing international development assistance. These Development resources could be channeled through a new financing facility, administered by international partners and with an independent oversight to avoid any misuse of funds. The objective of the facility would be to: (i) channel donor grant resources through a pooled mechanism, and (ii) serve as a platform for policy dialogue and coordination of funds. The facility could pilot an innovative operational model that channels resources to vetted non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to design and implement recovery and reconstruction projects, combined with strong fiduciary oversight by the fund administrator. Quickly establishing appropriate institutional and implementation arrangements, based on good governance and transparency, will be critical for an effective building back better approach.

Lessons from other post-crisis contexts offer several options for effective institutional and implementation arrangements. These could include the designation or creation of a lead implementation agency, sectoral implementation by line ministries, or a hybrid model in which a temporary agency provides overarching guidance and programmatic oversight while implementation remains decentralized at the sector and local levels, with a key role of local public agencies and civil society organizations. In the Lebanese context, a non-traditional model that relies more heavily on NGOs and civil society could be envisioned.