UN sends two more aid convoys to south Lebanon; one to devastated Qana town

31 July 2006

The United Nations sent two more emergency aid convoys to southern Lebanon today, including food assistance to the survivors in the town of Qana, where Israeli shelling at the weekend killed dozens of civilians, including numerous children.

One convoy, made up of eight trucks, went to Tyre carrying supplies for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), while five trucks of wheat flour, canned food and edible oil went to Qana, a UN spokesman said.

Separately, hundreds of family water kits and 200,000 doses of Vitamin A supplement were flown to Beirut today as part of the UN Children Fund’s (UNICEF) second air cargo of emergency supplies to reach the city.

“Vitamin A will be administered as part of a Lebanese Government immunization campaign supported by World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF starting tomorrow,” it said in a press release. The shipment was flown into Lebanon by the Royal Jordanian Air Force.

UNICEF has already provided $1.2 million for medical supplies and other immediate assistance to meet the immediate needs of children who represent around half of an estimated 800,000 displaced in Lebanon and refugees who have crossed into Syria.

However, despite these successes in getting aid to those in need, WFP – which is coordinating UN and other humanitarian aid in Lebanon – was forced to cancel a planned convoy to the southern Lebanese town of Marjayoun, after the Israeli Defence Forces declined to give their agreement to the shipment.

“We are extremely disappointed and indeed frustrated that we have been unable to go ahead with this convoy. There are tens of thousands of people in the south who are in desperate need of assistance,” said Amer Daoudi, WFP Emergency Coordinator for Lebanon in a press release.

“Obviously, this is a setback, but it will not deter us from pressing ahead with further convoys or from trying to reach people in the worst affected areas.”

The decision was in accordance with established security procedures in Lebanon, under which WFP requires concurrence from all parties involved in the conflict for humanitarian aid convoy movements. This is the first time that such concurrence has not been forthcoming, WFP said in a statement.

The six-truck convoy to Marjayoun was loaded with a variety of relief supplies, including medicines from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), WHO, WFP, Mercy Corps and Norwegian People’s Aid.

Last Friday the UN’s top aid official, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, made an urgent appeal for a “humanitarian truce” lasting at least three days between Israel and Hezbollah to allow children, the wounded and the elderly to escape the fighting and food, medicine and other emergency supplies to get through to the conflict zones.

Also on the humanitarian front, Syrian aid groups and private associations are urgently seeking assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in providing relief for thousands of displaced Lebanese in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Local citizens have provided board and lodging to many of the estimated 100,000 Lebanese who have fled to Syria, but these Syrian families also need help with relief items to relieve the strain, UNHCR said.

To ease the burden, the agency has already begun supplying the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with relief items, and notes that demand for mattresses, sheets, clothes, underwear, diapers and sanitary napkins is particularly high.


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