|© UN Photo/Garten|
|Men and boys from Rmaich in southern Lebanon unload water from a truck. Five truckloads of water from UNICEF and five more carrying UN supplies of wheat, peas and canned meat arrived in the town on 24 August.|
By Blue Chevigny
NEW YORK, USA, 28 August 2006 – As the fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah holds in southern Lebanon and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan makes a diplomatic visit to the region, Lebanese children continue to suffer from inadequate services, water shortages and a lack of basic supplies.
But UNICEF and its partners are stepping up efforts on multiple fronts to meet the needs of these young people and their families.
Communication Officer Simon Ingram is on the ground in Beirut after spending time in Tyre, in the south of the country, to help with UNICEF operations there. “We have completed the assessment stage of the work in the south,” he says, “and now we are targeting our assistance to where it’s most needed.”
Water tanks set up
In addition to speeding up the delivery of supplies – most significantly, bottled water – to southern Lebanon, UNICEF is working to place a number of large water tanks in the area.
“The water infrastructure was destroyed in the south,” says Mr. Ingram. ”And while bottled water is key for now, water tanks are a much more efficient form of delivery.”
|© UN Photo/Garten|
|A convoy of UNICEF and World Food Programme trucks en route to deliver food and water to the town of Rmaich, Lebanon.|
Some of the tanks are very large, effectively acting as small reservoirs. In the village of Al Khiam, which suffered significant damage in the war, two tanks have already been set up to serve the community. In the coming days, four more tanks are to be placed in other villages with damaged water systems.
At the same time, UNICEF is partnering with local non-governmental organizations in the south to create protective environments for children who are returning with their families after being displaced by the conflict.
“It’s hard to conceive the distressing affect on a young mind of returning to your home and finding it has been destroyed,” says Mr. Ingram. “[We] are planning numerous locations where young people will be able to engage in sports, art groups and other activities that will enhance their transitions.
“The existence of these child-centred spaces will also allow UNICEF and others to identify children who might need more psychological support as a result of the trauma of the war,” he adds.
Education and reconstruction
UNICEF is also deeply involved with the Lebanese Government’s back-to-school initiative, with plans to provide 350,000 children with school bags, pens, pencils and notebooks – all the basics needed for them to return to classes when the new school year begins in October.
“We are also working to clean up schools that were used as shelters for displaced families in Beirut and the north, which suffered significant wear and tear,” notes Mr. Ingram.
Although unexploded munitions left over from the war will remain a threat for some time, Mr. Ingram says the immediate crisis associated with armed conflict in southern Lebanon appears to have come to an end. “We are moving into a new phase with the crisis, and this presents new opportunities and new challenges,” he adds.
While remaining vigilant with regard to any new outbreak of hostilities, UNICEF and its partners are now looking toward longer-term initiatives to rebuild the shattered communities of southern Lebanon.
28 August 2006:
UNICEF Communication Officer Simon Ingram reports on projects under way in southern Lebanon to help returning children readjust to life in their home communities.
Middle East crisis
Palestinian students return to school [with video]
News note: Violent spell rivals worst times for Palestinian children
Renewed violence in Gaza [with audio]
Lebanon launches polio campaign [with video]
Post-war, Israeli and Lebanese teens talk [with audio]
In Lebanon, back to school at last [with video]