UNICEF in Emergencies & Humanitarian Action

As thousands of Lebanese families head home, UNICEF warns of unexploded bomb danger

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© UNICEF/HQ06-1146/Brooks
Families returning home in Lebanon face devastation and the threat of unexploded bombs.

By Jane O’Brien

NEW YORK, USA, 15 August 2006 – UNICEF is warning that thousands of Lebanese children are at risk from unexploded bombs as they return to their homes in the wake of Monday’s ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

It’s estimated that a tenth of munitions fired on the country during the 34-day conflict have not been detonated. Many may lie dormant in schools, hospitals and houses.

“Children are more vulnerable to the danger because they are attracted to things and pick them up, they know less and they are more compact than adults and closer to the ground – so any explosion impacts them more greatly,” said UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes, Dan Toole.

Humanitarian hub in Tyre

UNICEF has launched a massive awareness campaign in Syria and Lebanon. Tens of thousands of leaflets are being distributed and radio and television stations are broadcasting warnings about the danger of unexploded bombs.

UNICEF Image
© Reuters/Bensemra
Thousands of displaced families are returning home in southern Lebanon in the wake of the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, but many roads are impassable due to bombing.

“In normal warfare 10 per cent of munitions do not explode when they hit the ground,” said Mr. Toole. “What we don’t know in Lebanon is 10 per cent of how many, although it’s an enormous number. We also have confirmation of cluster bombs at a couple of sites.”

One of the worst hit areas was the southern port city of Tyre, where a humanitarian hub has now been established to distribute aid to outlying areas that were cut off by the shelling.

UNICEF is in charge of providing water and sanitation and will also be helping children get back to school in the days ahead.

Traffic blocks damaged roads

Many people were stranded in their homes when the fighting started and are in urgent need of food, water and medical supplies. UNICEF is supplying tens of thousands of litres of water to stricken parts of Tyre, Sidon and Rmeish.

The situation has been complicated by thousands of returning refugees who also need aid. About 10,000 people have already left shelters in Syria, and an estimated 200,000 are moving south.

The heavy traffic has blocked roads that are already damaged and difficult to pass. Around half of the 800,000 or so Lebanese displaced by the conflict are children.


 

 

Video

16 August 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Karim Bin-Humam reports on a new campaign to alert returning families of the risks of unexploded bombs in southern Lebanon.
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Video


15 August 2006:
UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes Dan Toole says unexploded bombs are a major threat to children in Lebanon.
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