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Clearances, Devastation Hinder Urgent Mid East Aid

Security Clearances And Devastation Hinder Urgent UN Aid to Middle East Conflict Areas

New York, Aug 1 2006 7:00PM

Demolished roads and bridges, fuel shortages and an inability to get security guarantees are all hindering the United Nations emergency effort to get urgent humanitarian aid to those most in need in the Middle East, a UN spokesman said today, as the world body’s food agency warned there was “no time to waste.”

“All our agencies are mobilized to the best of their abilities to help the people of Lebanon and of Gaza and the West Bank, but the process is very ‘stop-and-start’ because of the conditions on the ground,” Ahmad Fawzi told reporters in New York.

“The conditions are treacherous, some of the roads are not functioning and also because of the security situation, we’re not getting security clearances for our convoys to go through as regularly as we would like them to go through,” he added, highlighting also a chronic fuel shortage in Lebanon.

“We hope that in the next 24 hours we’ll be able to re-supply Lebanon with fuel… fuel is so critical. I’ll give you one example: three hospitals in the south have had to shut down because of lack of fuel.”

The World Food Programme (WFP), which is coordinating UN and other humanitarian aid in Lebanon, said today that it had suffered another setback in its huge efforts to bring much-needed aid to the beleaguered inhabitants of southern Lebanon.

Out of three convoys planned for the villages of Tebnin, Rmeish and Naqoura, WFP only received concurrence from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to proceed to Tebnin, so only six trucks of food and other supplies are being sent instead of the 18 that had been planned.

“We are increasingly frustrated that our convoy movements are being hampered, leaving people in the south stranded for what is now nearly three weeks. We have no time to waste – they are running out of food, water and medicine. Many are poor, sick, or elderly and could not be evacuated earlier,” warned Amer Daoudi, WFP Emergency Coordinator.

“We ask all parties to this conflict to allow these convoys to move – otherwise we are going to see even more tragedy and more suffering than we’ve seen so far.”

WFP also had to cancel a planned convoy to the southern Lebanese town of Marjayoun on Sunday, after the IDF refused to give their agreement to this shipment.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy also highlighted the difficulties faced in getting emergency aid to those most in need and she again emphasized the importance of a cessation of hostilities.

“According to reports from our monitors on the ground, an estimated 177 children have been killed in Lebanon to date…The guns must stop firing to give all parties time to reflect on the impact of this war on children and to provide the space necessary for the formulation of a political framework to ensure a more permanent peace,” she said.

Regarding the UN’s overall humanitarian appeal for Lebanon, which last week called for $149 million in emergency assistance, Mr. Fawzi said today that nearly $25 million has been received so far in pledges and commitments, although large quantities of bilateral aid – outside the appeal – have also been pledged.


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