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Aid Agencies Welcome Cessation of Hostilities

MEDIA RELEASE

Oxfam International, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, Save the Children and World Vision

Wednesday 16 August 2006, Beirut

At a press conference this morning these agencies welcomed the cessation of hostilities, but urged all parties including the international community to uphold their responsibilities under international law to ensure the establishment of the permanent ceasefire, the protection of civilians and provide full access for humanitarian assistance to all people in need.

Speaking at the press conference the agencies said:

"The violence has ended but the needs are great. We are working on the ground with local partners and communities to provide food and hygiene supplies. We plan to provide assistance in providing safe and warm housing in time for winter, and support the recovery of the economy." Aref Khan Islamic Relief

"Now that we have a ceasefire we must ensure that this isn't a paper exercise but it's a real ceasefire which will enable people to rebuild their lives. The human misery on the ground is immense as is the logistical challenge that we face to get aid into the worst affected areas because of the shortage of fuel and the destruction to roads and bridges across Lebanon." Shaista Aziz, Oxfam

"We welcome the cessation of hostilities but the psychological effects of this war on children are going to be long-lasting and must be addressed immediately. Children were severely affected by this conflict. Children in displaced centers exhibited signs of distress and trauma. A seven-year old boy living in a school refused to go to the bathroom until his mother went in first and confirmed that there was no plane inside. Getting children back in school and providing emotional and mental support to them is a first step in the healing process." Sonia Khush, Save the Children.

"People are desperate to return to their homes now that there is a cessation of hostilities. And even though many have packed their possessions into cars and are on the road home, everyone we have met have told us that they are afraid of what awaits them. Estimates suggest that up to 15,000 homes have been destroyed leaving 100,000 people homeless.

Christian Aid are working with local organisations to continue to deliver relief to families in need, help people rebuild their houses and will be providing training and assistance to help them find work or re-establish their farms and businesses. They are also fearful that the delicate truce will collapse. It is vital that the international community including the UK government do everything possible to ensure that the cessation holds and a permanent ceasefire is put in place to allow people to rebuild their lives and homes." Janet Symes, Christian Aid/ENDS

Editors Notes Lebanon: Cessation of hostilities holding for now. 1 million Lebanese are displaced but they seem to have faith the ceasefire will hold so - most people are trying to get home so there are huge traffic jams. Its unclear whether anyone will be able to return south of the Litani river - or whether Oxfam staff will be able to get there, where the biggest need is because its been flattened by the Israelis. We plan to travel south now.

Oxfam and its local partners are deeply concerned for the protection of civilians who are returning to their villages in thousands. These concerns include:

• Unexploded ordinance and cluster munitions - a child has already been killed in Tyre(14 Aug)

• Continued firing between Israeli and Hizbollah as fragile "ceasefire" holds

• Ability of aid organisations to move equipment and supplies as roads are jammed with people. While people can sometimes cross the hundreds of destroyed roads and bridges it is difficult to move large quantities of aid

• Because of Israels' bombing the roads, unexploded shells, traffic jams etc it is very hard to get round e.g. a 2 hour drive from Damascus now entails a 6-hour diversion. A 45-minute drive from Beirut to Sidon takes 7 hours and detours off the tarmac are dangerous.

• Israel continues to place restrictions on the movement of vehicles in the south while a naval blockade has delayed access for two relief ships (WFP 14 August)

Oxfam and its local partners are already responding to the needs of people who are displaced from their homes. Oxfam International, for example, has provided food aid and other essential supplies to people sheltering in schools, is preparing to move tonnes of supplies to the south including tents and water equipment. Oxfam's equipment is designed to be portable. We plan to move our water tanks and other equipment with people but movement and access will be a major challenge given all the problems above.

ENDS


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