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UN Food Agency To Wind Down Relief Effort

Rapid Recovery In Lebanon Allows Un Food Agency To Wind Down Relief Effort

New York, Sep 15 2006 11:00AM


Lebanon will soon be food secure again and its commercial sector is bouncing back quicker than expected, paving the way for the withdrawal of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) from the country by the end of October, according to a report issued today.

“I have to say, it’s a very positive development for us to be able to close a food aid programme and leave,” said WFP’s Emergency Coordinator in Lebanon, Zlatan Milisic.

Compiled from the findings of a two-week assessment mission across Lebanon at the end of August and beginning of September, the WFP report also noted that while some parts of the population still suffer the effects of war, foodstuffs are available at affordable prices and nutritional levels are good throughout the country.

Even in the south of Lebanon – the area worst hit by the recent conflict – consumers are managing, the agency said. Limited product choice and price hikes have failed to close down the market, which shows encouraging signs of recovery from the combined effects of more than a month of hostilities and the just-lifted Israeli naval blockade.

“All the indications were that the situation was improving fast after the end of the fighting but, until the conclusion of this assessment, we didn’t have enough hard evidence,” said Mr. Milisic.

“Now we have data giving a clear picture of people’s food needs over the coming months. The general outlook is good and confirms our view that we should not stay in Lebanon a moment longer than necessary.”

The assessment team noted that some population groups, however, are still vulnerable and face continuing hardship. They include daily wage labourers, fishermen and some farmers in the south of the country, particularly growers of fruit, vegetables and cash crops such as tobacco. Major factors in sustaining people in these categories will be the levels of support offered by local communities and remittances sent by family members.

The report recommends that WFP continue its food assistance programme to those most in need until 24 October – the date that will mark the end of the three-month emergency operation launched by the agency after the outbreak of war in July.

“We have done our best to assist the Government and the people of the country – and we have been successful. Even at the height of the fighting, we were operational, bringing relief supplies to those areas we could access. Now the situation is stabilizing and people are resuming their lives, it’s time for us to say goodbye,” said ῍r. Milisic, welcoming this development.

WFP has reached more than 700,000 people since the start of its Emergency Operation in July and is now targeting some 350,000 of the most affected people in Lebanon, the majority of them in the south of the country and in the southern suburbs of the capital.

In all, WFP has distributed an estimated 480,000 monthly rations and helped the Government of Lebanon import 12,300 tons of wheat during the blockade period. It also helped to move some 1,900 tons of humanitarian supplies in the country.

Ends

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