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Increased Lebanon Aid Effort After Hostilities

UN Agencies Mount Increased Aid Effort in Lebanon Following Cessation of Hostilities

New York, Aug 14 2006 6:00PM

United Nations agencies stepped up their efforts today to bring humanitarian relief inside Lebanon to hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians as they try to return to their homes after the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah took effect this morning.

But they warned that the area south of the Litani river – where UN agencies are concentrating their relief efforts – would remain dangerous for many weeks, especially given the large amounts of unexploded artillery and mortar shells in the area.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon David Shearer said today that following the cessation “there can no longer be any no-go areas in Lebanon,” but he added that UN agencies will continue to notify both sides of their movements “as a precautionary measure during the transition period.”

The UN Relief and Works Agency for the Near East (UNRWA) said displaced Lebanese and Palestinians who had taken refuge inside its schools and camp areas started leaving this morning as they began their journeys home.

Four distribution hubs have been established across Lebanon to speed up the process of delivering aid and to allow easy access to those in need, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a press release issued in Beirut.

The hubs, in the Mediterranean coastal cities of Tyre, Sidon and Tripoli can be supplied by land or sea, while the fourth hub has been set up in Zahle, a town in the Beka’a Valley in Lebanon’s east.

The World Food Programme’s (WFP) head of logistics in Lebanon, Thomas Keusters, said the distribution hubs will allow the agencies’ relief efforts to become quicker and more effective.

“Up until now, our efforts to reach people with desperately needed aid have been severely hampered by the damage inflicted by bombs on roads and bridges, forcing us to take lengthy and circuitous detours,” he said.

Within minutes of the cessation of hostilities coming into effect, two truck convoys carrying food, medical supplies, water and sanitary goods left Sidon for Tyre.

A ferry carrying food and other relief supplies for UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) docked in Beirut yesterday, and it is expected to deliver supplies to Tyre later this week.

Meanwhile, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that a staff member for UNRWA was killed during an Israeli air strike at the Ein el-Hilweh camp for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) today, only 90 minutes before the cessation of hostilities took effect.

In a separate development, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced they will jointly convene a meeting in Greece on Thursday to discuss how to minimize the impact of an oil spill that has devastated Lebanon’s coast.

At least 140 kilometres of coastline have been polluted by the slick, which was caused by an Israeli air strike in mid-July on an oil storage unit at a power plant in Jiyyeh, south of Beirut. Until the cessation of hostilities, no clean up of the area has been possible.

ENDS

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