|A girl stands on the second floor of a destroyed building in southern Beirut, Lebanon. Returning families face devastation and danger caused by bombing.|
By Jane O’Brien
NEW YORK, 17 August 2006 – UNICEF supplies of water and fuel have arrived in one of the worst hit areas of southern Lebanon. The town of Bint Jbeil was devastated in the month-long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, but families are already returning home. As well as trying to rebuild their lives, they now face the threat of unexploded bombs.
UNICEF Communication Officer Simon Ingram travelled with the aid convoy. He said some unsafe areas have been cordoned off by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) but danger still lurks beneath the rubble of ruined buildings.
“UNMAS marked a number of areas in different parts of the south where they found cluster bombs and shells and a 500 kg bomb in the middle of one of the streets here – but increasing numbers of people are still coming back to these areas,” he said.
|© UNICEF video|
|Graphic from a video public-service announcement that is part of a UNICEF-supported campaign warning Lebanese civilians about the danger of unexploded munitions.|
Risk to children
UNICEF has launched an awareness campaign, distributing leaflets to returning refugees from Syria and families in Lebanon displaced by the fighting. Information films are being shown on television and there are special broadcasts on radio networks. Children are particularly vulnerable because they are less likely to know about the dangers of unexploded bombs, which are often found in places where they play.
“Bint Jbeil is one of the most damaged places where enormous destruction took place,” said Mr. Ingram. “There is rubble and debris everywhere, and it’s possible that in these ruins, clusters of bombs may be found.”
An estimated 85,000 refugees have now left Syria and more than 200,000 have returned to their homes in Lebanon. In places such as Bint Jbeil, water is scarce and there is no electricity. UNICEF has provided fuel for two hospitals in the region and thousands of litres of bottled water.
|A boy peers from the back of a truck piled with belongings. His family is among the tens of thousands of displaced returning home following the ceasefire in Lebanon.|
Slow return to normalcy
In other parts of the country there are reports that life is slowly returning to normal as the ceasefire continues to hold. According to UNICEF’s Emergency Officer in Tyre, Osama Makkawi, traffic congestion caused by people returning to their homes has eased.
“Tyre and Sidon are opening up again,” he said. “Shops are starting to open gradually and compared to what we saw a few days ago, traffic is reduced.”
As roads become more accessible UNICEF will carry out assessments of other areas cut off by the recent fighting. A team is due to arrive in Rmeish on Friday and shipments of water to all parts of the country are continuing.
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