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UN agency launches appeal to aid refugees displaced by Lebanese fighting

UN agency launches appeal to aid refugees displaced by Lebanese fighting

The main United Nations agency tasked with helping Palestinian refugees launched an appeal today for nearly $13 million to help the thousands of people who have had to flee the Nahr el-Bared camp in northern Lebanon because of deadly fighting.

More than 27,000 people have fled in the past two weeks, mainly to the already crowded Beddawi camp, where the living conditions are becoming unbearable as a result, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reported.

UNRWA’s flash appeal calls for $12.7 million to deal with the immediate needs of the displaced refugees, especially for food assistance and emergency shelter to relieve the congestion at Beddawi, where the population has swollen from 16,000 to 37,000.

“Displaced persons have very little resources to cater for their needs, and the coping mechanisms of hosting refugee families are severely strained,” UNRWA said in a press statement accompanying the launch of its appeal in Beirut.

The agency is working with officials in the city of Tripoli, not far from Nahr el-Bared and Beddawi, to provide temporary alternative accommodation for some of the displaced families.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd appealed to international donors to help the agency as soon as possible.

“The situation in the camps was already extremely and now it has deteriorated even further,” she said. “This fighting has placed refugees in the front line and I am very concerned about the precarious situation in which they find themselves.”

The appeal also includes provisions for emergency health, water and sanitation services, as well as a means to allow schoolchildren displaced by the fighting to sit for public examinations.

Fighting erupted two weeks ago between Lebanese army forces and Fatah al-Islam gunmen who had based themselves in Nahr el-Bared. Since then dozens of people have been killed, including many civilians.

In a statement released today, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said claims by Fatah al-Islam that it was involved in a military stand-off at the camp were completely unfounded.

“The UNIFIL Maritime Task Force has no part whatsoever in the developments in and around Nahr el-Bared camp,” the statement said, adding that the task force is acting fully within its mandate, which includes assisting the Lebanese authorities in preventing the illegal flow of arms from the sea.