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UNICEF strengthens support to Lebanese returnees in the South

Media campaign to alert displaced of dangers of unexploded ordinance

BEIRUT/AMMAN/TYRE, 16 August 2006 – With a fragile ceasefire continuing to hold in south Lebanon, UNICEF and sister agencies are stepping up efforts to bring humanitarian assistance to the tens of thousands of displaced people as they return to their villages.

Over 200,000 displaced people are estimated to have made their way home already, many of them to find homes, communities and livelihoods shattered or destroyed. Schools and other centres that had been occupied by displaced families in Beirut and elsewhere are being abandoned. Many refugees who fled to Syria have also begun the long journey home.

Perhaps the most immediate danger awaiting the returnees are the large number of unexploded missiles and other munitions that have been found strewn across the countryside. It is estimated that 10 per cent of munitions fired 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 speaking from New York.

UNICEF and other partners are today launching a public awareness campaign in Syria and Lebanon to alert people – and especially parents – to the menace of unexploded ordnance. Tens of thousands of leaflets are being distributed and radio and television stations are broadcasting warnings about the danger of unexploded bombs.

The campaign was produced in collaboration with the National De-mining Office, the Lebanese Army, the University of Balamand, the National steering committee for Mine Risk Education and World Rehabilitation, UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and UNDP. UNICEF Syria has printed 50,000 pamphlets for distribution among migrating populations.

According to UNIFIL and the National De-mining Office, approximately 2,600 ordnance (artillery rounds, missiles, and bombs) were fired every day into Lebanon during the recent conflict 10 per cent of which (some 8,000-9,000 artefacts) could still remain unexploded.

Already, UNMAS has reported a number of incidents relating to unexploded ordnance, including the death of a child in Tyre and eight civilian injuries from cluster munitions.  UNMAS experts yesterday found at least 200 cluster bombs in Tebnin, south Lebanon, including in the grounds of the local hospital. “We stopped counting them at 200,” UNMAS team members reported. The team has started working on defusing the bombs.

Working in collaboration with the UNMAS, UNICEF is the UN focal point for mine risk education. In this capacity, it provides appropriate guidance for all mine awareness programmes, liaising closely with other national and UN partners in Lebanon. UNICEF also undertakes comprehensive rehabilitation of landmine survivors, including psychosocial counseling, physical rehabilitation and education for those with disability.

Increased UNICEF capacity serving returnees in the South

As part of the broader UN response to the crisis in Lebanon, a convoy carrying food, fuel and water reached Rumaysh and other villages close to the Israeli border. Four truckloads of bottled water supplied by UNICEF were among the supplies distributed. Today (Wednesday) a ship carrying 21 truck loads of relief are due in Tyre, for distribution on Thursday.

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About UNICEF

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.


For more information, please contact:


Soha Boustani, UNICEF Beirut: Tel (+961) 3 236 167; sboustani@unicef.org

Simon Ingram, UNICEF Tyre: Tel (+961) 70 971 387 / + 2012 214 2567; singram@unicef.org

M. Anis Salem, UNICEF Amman: Tel (+962) 79 557 9991 email; asalem@unicef.org

Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Geneva: Tel (+41 22) 909 5712;  wbelmonte@unicef.org

Gordon Weiss, UNICEF New York: Tel (+1 212) 326 7426; gweiss@unicef.org

Wolfgang Friedl, UNICEF Amman: Tel (+962) 6 553 9977 ext 422; wfriedl@unicef.org


 

 

 

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18 August 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on the difficult journey home for Lebanese refugees returning from Syria.
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