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Relying on taxis, cars to distribute aid

World Vision relies on taxis, cars to distribute aid

With the Israel-Lebanon conflict now entering its fourth week, World Vision Lebanon continues its distributions of essential relief items to thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) within the country.

To date, the Lebanon office has assisted nearly 30,000 displaced now living in schools, churches, mosques, houses, parking garages and other structures located within World Vision area projects in southern, central and northern regions of the country.

Relief activities have focused on distributions of food items, medicines and medical supplies and hygiene products to some 9,500 IDPs in Beirut, 5,650 in northern Lebanon, 2,950 in the Bekaa Valley, 2,000 in East Sidon and 9,500 in southern Lebanon.

Distributions in southern Lebanon have been most difficult and dangerous due to frequent Israeli air strikes and their targeting of heavy vehicles. World Vision has relied on taxis, sedans and SUVs to deliver desperately needed relief items on a piecemeal basis to isolated communities near the southern border.

Destruction of factories, communications infrastructure, roads and bridges combined with increasing insecurity in Lebanon have seriously impeded World Vision's aid efforts, and are certain to do so for some time. Production of many local food and non-food items has been halted, prices of basic commodities have soared by 30% to 50%, and fuel shortages have led to long cues at petrol stations in Beirut. According to the Lebanese government, unemployment rates have reached 75% and total losses are now estimated at USD4 billion.

The current humanitarian crisis in Lebanon is compounded by the inability of World Vision and other international aid groups to receive emergency shipments within country, explained Dan Kelly, Director for Strategic Operations with World Vision's Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs (HEA) Division.

"As a Partnership we have not been able to bring in staff and supplies from the outside, so our relief efforts have been limited almost entirely to activities initiated and carried out by the Lebanon office, in some highly challenging and complex circumstances," said Kelly, currently based in Beirut along with a security advisor and communications manager of WV's Global Rapid Response Team (GRRT).

"Although we no longer have access to many areas where the Lebanon office was working prior to the present conflict, the national staff here have risen to this occasion to the point that their efforts are being acclaimed in the NGO and UN community," Kelly said.

World Vision's relief response capacity should improve significantly in coming weeks as new opportunities are identified to bring aid supplies and staff into Lebanon, Kelly added.

"Because we have nine area projects and are working in 12 locations across Lebanon, we are better placed than most organisations to respond to this crisis directly and together with communities and local partners," he said. "Nevertheless, there is a notable lack of confidence within the humanitarian community that corridors for the safe and unhindered delivery of aid can be firmly established within the very near future."

Current planning envisions aid shipments into Larnaca, Cyprus as the principal transit point for moving WV staff and supplies on to Lebanon. Relief supplies currently pre-positioned for dispatch to Cyprus from Frankfurt include 6,000 collapsible water containers, 96,000 water purification tablets, two water purification units, 2,000 hygiene kits, and medicines for 10,000 beneficiaries. In addition, three 4x4 DAF trucks and one Rubbhall warehouse tent are ready for immediate shipment from Brindisi to Cyprus.

A minimum programme budget for the first 90 days of this response is estimated at between USD8 to 10 million, while anticipating the likely scenario of a deepening humanitarian crisis in Lebanon.

"World Vision is liaising closely with the UN and other humanitarian actors to achieve earliest possible access to communities that are in very dire straits and lacking even the most basic of life's requirements," Kelly said. "The bottom line is that there are upwards of a million people who have been displaced by this conflict so far, a very large proportion of them women, children and the elderly, and an even larger number who are still in their home communities but nevertheless impacted severely at a livelihoods level."

"At this stage there are no indicators that would tell us that this crisis is going to become anything but more serious," Kelly concluded.

World Vision NZ is accepting donations through the website: www.worldvision.org.nz or on 0800 80 2000.

ENDS

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