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Metn Municipalities Set the Right Example by Embracing Collective Responsibility Principles
Posted on Mar 24, 2021 |
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“This is the first time that I feel a slight presence of the State. The first time I don’t feel completely left to my fate.” It is with these words that Rita, a single woman from Dbayeh who contracted COVID-19 few months ago, expresses her gratitude towards the municipality that accompanied her during the two weeks she was confined to bed. A medical advisor contacted her on a daily basis in order to inquire about her health and her symptoms’ evolution while ensuring that she did not lack anything and that she could get through this painful ordeal.
the Author
Journalist at L’Orient-Le Jour newspaper
Metn Municipalities Set the Right Example by Embracing Collective Responsibility Principles
©Adra Kandil

“This is the first time that I feel a slight presence of the State. The first time I don’t feel completely left to my fate.” It is with these words that Rita, a single woman from Dbayeh who contracted COVID-19 few months ago, expresses her gratitude towards the municipality that accompanied her during the two weeks she was confined to bed. A medical advisor contacted her on a daily basis in order to inquire about her health and her symptoms’ evolution while ensuring that she did not lack anything and that she could get through this painful ordeal.

A gesture of compassion and a benevolent attentiveness sufficient to show her that she was not alone in her fight against this pernicious virus that attacked the morale as much as the organs.

“Yet, I do not vote in this town where I am a simple resident?” this 40-year-old woman testifies. With this statement, Rita had just summarized the entire phenomenon of visceral clientelism that has lodged itself in the unconscious of the Lebanese in the past years. The latter ended up integrating the principle according to which they cannot benefit from a public service, which is their natural right, if they do not pay the price in return, during elections or by some allegiance to the local “Zaïms”.

A deviation that some municipalities, though, have decided to reverse, and particularly since the advent of a pandemic that no longer spares anyone and that has ended up sharpening some people's sense of collective and civic responsibility.

In Dbayeh, as in other localities of the Metn, it is the human aspect that has regained the upper hand in the face of this tragedy.  The time has come, not for political haggling, but for the help of the most vulnerable, whom the State has long since left behind and completely ignored.

In this town, as well as in Roumieh and Kornet Chehwan, the health situation and social cases were addressed very early on. Here and there, crisis cells have emerged to help, support, and relieve. And above all, to ensure that the pandemic was contained and no longer wreaked havoc.

In the municipality of Kornet Chehwan, which also includes the towns of Ain Aar, Beit el-Kiko and Hbous, all means have been deployed: distribution of gel, gloves and disinfectants to all inhabitants.  Patients were even provided with a medical kit containing the full range of necessary vitamins and medicines formally prescribed by the attending physician.

"We had to avoid self-medication at all costs and spare the local authorities from any responsibility," says the president of the municipality, Jean Pierre Gebara, a very active man who has been socially committed for years. Re-elected in 2016 with 90 percent of the vote - an exceptional score - Jean-Pierre Gebara has since enjoyed absolute confidence in his region, especially among the wealthy people of the area who have never faltered to support him in his mission.

In Roumieh, the municipality even went so far as to pay for the consultations of doctors sent to the patients’ bedside. It has recently acquired those precious oxygen tanks to pass them to those affected. And since the lockdown measures were decreed, Roumieh’s municipal police have been firm in its dealing with the careless people and have adopted a dissuasive communication policy from the outset.

"Every evening and at the height of the pandemic, a vehicle equipped with a loudspeaker would drive around town to remind people of the lockdown instructions and the dangers of spreading the virus," said the president of the municipality Adel Bou Habib. Respect for public order was just as important as the social support to be given to the most disadvantaged. On several occasions, the local authorities conducted PCR tests free of charge to those who wished to take them.  The last round was carried out by two members of the municipality whom the president of the council had sent for training, to ensure local autonomy in terms of testing.

In Dbayeh, the municipality has taken on the task of providing medicines for the sick at home. Those who could afford it, reimbursed the due amount weeks later. The most destitute also benefited twice from vouchers of LBP 100,000 for provisions, and LBP 300,000 for medicines, a measure designed to temporarily relieve the less fortunate inhabitants. "In the beginning, we even went to the homes of the sick to collect their garbage. But when we had reached one hundred and thirty infections, we no longer had the time to devote to this task," says Rachid Bou Nader, the health advisor of the municipality.

It is noteworthy that, in the three municipalities, politics have quietly faded to make way for social and mutual aid. In Dbayeh, as well as in Kornet Chehwan and Roumieh, the municipal council regroups a wide range of political parties. None of them has ever been dominant, even if sometimes the president had a pronounced sympathy for a particular political group. "The credit goes to the orchestra conductor and the culture he instills in his team," says one political analyst. 

According to Ziad Sayegh, an expert in public policy, these personal initiatives and the success they have achieved mark, albeit timidly, the beginning of decentralization in the medical and social fields. A notable breakthrough which, the analyst hopes, can be extended to all areas and spread to the four corners of the country.

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Mar 2021
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