|© REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton|
|A 10-day-old Lebanese baby who was born inside a makeshift refugee shelter in the Beirut Mall.|
By Jane O’Brien
NEW YORK, USA, 24 July 2006 – UNICEF is asking for $23.8 million as part of a wider UN appeal of $150 million for emergency aid to Lebanon. Launched simultaneously in Beirut and at United Nations headquarters in New York, the appeal urges the global community to help displaced and refugee children and families in their hour of critical need.
As the hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah continue, more than a third of those already killed and injured have been children. And of the estimated 700,000 Lebanese people forced to flee their homes to Syria and other parts of Lebanon, almost half are thought to be children.
“Tens of thousands of these children are living in schools, playgrounds, mosques and churches with little access to clean water and sanitation facilities,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah said at the appeal launch here. “Those who are fortunate to survive may have witnessed the death or injury of a loved one and the destruction of their environment. Many live in constant fear and anxiety.”
|UNICEF emergency supplies bound for the region are diverted to Lebanon, becoming some of the first to reach the stricken country.|
The first major shipment of UN aid is expected to reach stricken parts of Lebanon on Wednesday, as Israel has agreed to establish ‘safe corridors’ allowing relief to reach those most in need.
Emergency supplies were dispatched at the weekend from UNICEF’s warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark. These include basic medicines as well as water and sanitation kits for some 1,700 families. UNICEF has been appointed the lead UN agency for water and sanitation in the conflict area.
Other UNICEF supplies bound for the region have already been diverted to Lebanon and are among the first to reach the country.
Ms. Salah said families who had escaped the violence now face a new kind of fear. “They face the fear of disease from a lack of medical care, clean water and proper sanitation,” she said. “UNICEF will work with our UN partners, governments, NGOs and others to provide support for these displaced children.”
|From the hills overlooking Beirut, a child watches smoke rise from Rafiq Hariri Airport following Israeli air strikes.|
Protection of children
The Lebanese Ambassador to the UN, Nouhad Mahmoud, said children were bearing the brunt of the catastrophe and would continue to suffer in the months to come.
“In the long run it will have the effect of a lack of schooling, because the schools have become centres for refugees and displaced people,” he noted. “In every village in Lebanon now, we have schools that are centres for refugees. That effects the whole population, not only those who are affected by the displacement now.”
Many Gulf countries have already pledged financial support, and more is expected. Qatar made one of the first donations. UN Ambassador Nassir Al Nasser of Qatar commended UNICEF for its work in Lebanon and said his country’s contributions would continue in the coming days.
Ms. Salah ended her statement at the UN by reminding the global community that the protection of children and civilians is an obligation under international humanitarian law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
24 July 2006: UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Thomas McDermott, describes the crisis in Lebanon.
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]