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Lebanon: De-Miners Hurt, Agricultural Damage $280M

Lebanon: UN De-Miners Hurt as Agricultural Damage from Conflict Hits $280 Million

New York, Nov 28 2006 9:00AM

Several United Nations de-miners working in Lebanon have been injured over the past several days, while a UN agency today estimated that the agricultural damage from the 34-day conflict between Hizbollah and Israel has reached $280 million.

Reporting on the blasts that wounded the de-miners, which are now under investigation, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that the world body needs information to forestall future incidents.

“The UN condemns the use of all anti-personnel mines, and calls upon any party that laid such mines during the recent conflict to provide information as to where they have been laid to prevent similar tragic incidents occurring in the future,” he said.

On the political front, Lebanon is considering proposals for a joint international-Lebanese tribunal to try those allegedly responsible for last year’s assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others in a massive car bombing in Beirut.

In New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan was asked about internal opposition from the President of Lebanon and the Speaker of the country’s Parliament. “I accept that there are internal issues that the Prime Minister will have to work out with the political forces in Lebanon, but that is the responsibility of the Lebanese, not that of the UN,” he replied.

In another development, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) released a report today estimating that damage and losses to agriculture, fisheries and forestry in Lebanon from this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hizbollah total some $280 million, with accumulating debts threatening upcoming crops.

“With the loss of income from harvests and lost animal produce, many farmers have become heavily indebted as they usually repay their debts during the May to October harvest period to secure credit for the following production season,” FAO Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division Director Anne Bauer said.

“This year, their ability to repay these debts has been reduced to the minimum, making it impossible to start the new cropping cycle due to the lack of working capital.”

FAO has identified priority initiatives for implementation within the next 6 to 12 months to address the critical situation of vulnerable farming communities in south Lebanon. Start-up funding has been secured for a small early recovery coordination office in the south, but FAO is seeking some $17 million for other priority initiatives such as seeds, fertilizers and small irrigation equipment.

While the conflict affected the agriculture sector directly, with crops, livestock and equipment damaged by bombing, the indirect economic impact in terms of lost markets and labour opportunities was much more important, the report stresses.

The biggest economic losses stem from lack of access to fields during the conflict, the peak time for the harvest of export crops, mainly stone fruit and potatoes, with much of the produce perishing on the ground as bombing forced farmers to abandon their lands and transport to market became impossible.

Moreover, many agricultural fields and pastures have been rendered useless until unexploded bombs can be removed, a particularly important factor in the south where an estimated 25 per cent of the cultivated land is inaccessible due to unexploded ordnance.

Total financial losses due to physical damage and lost harvests of tree and field crops in the south amount to some $94 million. Overall, the total financial damage to the crop production sector is estimated at around $232 million.

The bombing was directed mainly at southern Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut, among the country’s poorest areas. Overall, agriculture accounts for almost 70 per cent of total household income in the south.

ENDS

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