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UN Assesses Sea Routes For Aid To Lebanon

UN Assesses Sea Routes For Aid To Lebanon As Bombing Destroys Roads And Bridges To Tyre

New York, Aug 8 2006

Racing against time to supply vital humanitarian aid to war-ravaged Lebanon, the United Nations is looking at the possibility of sea routes to bring in supplies as Israeli bombing has destroyed all roads and bridges to the southern city of Tyre and no humanitarian convoys were able to get through to the south of the country today.

“According to UN humanitarian agencies…Tyre is currently effectively cut off since the Israeli bombing of a provisional bridge across the Litani River yesterday. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is looking into repairing the bridge, but is first seeking assurances from the Israeli Defence Forces that it would not be destroyed again,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

“The United Nations is looking into alternative routes for providing aid to Lebanon by sea, especially with the bad condition of the road transport network due to Israeli raids. One major route would be by sea directly to Beirut, Sidon and Tyre.”

Fuel shipments are also ready to be sent “as soon as the security situation allows,” he said, highlighting the chronic shortage in the country that the UN World Health Organization ( WHO) has warned could force the closure of 60 per cent of Lebanese hospitals unless supplies are received this week.

Despite the difficulties, 12 trucks of emergency supplies are heading to the east of Lebanon today and also one convoy of 11 trucks from Syria, the UN said, adding also that after hours of delays at the border supplies from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had finally arrived in Beirut.

Despite its success in getting the six-truck convoy through however, UNHCR said further delays in getting security clearance meant that plans to fly in more supplies today had to be postponed until Thursday, despite the fact that its stock of blankets, tents and other essentials inside Lebanon has already been distributed.

“The delays caused by the bombing of the bridges on the main highway, as well as by logistical constraints, are causing frustrating delays and major set backs to our operations,” said Niyazi Maggeramov, UNHCR’s emergency team leader in Lebanon.

“We see and know the need for urgent action to get relief items to the people, but what can we do if we have no supplies inside Lebanon and we cannot accelerate the transport of supplies?”

UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, is scheduled to arrive today in Damascus on a three-day visit, during which she will meet with senior government officials, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and UN agencies to discuss the situation.

Also on the humanitarian front, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has distributed hygiene kits, diapers and other essential supplies to more than 20,000 internally displaced in the Mount Lebanon area, while the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has been assisting the Lebanese Red Cross in helping around 7,000 displaced in the Bekaa area of the country.

Separately, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is keeping track of the displaced who are seeking refuge in the schools that it runs in Lebanon, with estimates of around 4,000 seeking shelter in these buildings. In total, around 915,000 – a quarter of the country’s population – have been forced to flee their homes because of the conflict.

So far, last month’s emergency UN appeal for $149 million to cover humanitarian supplies for these hundreds of thousands of displaced Lebanese has received $41 million, or 26 per cent, in donor contributions and commitments, said a spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva.

ENDS


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