|Children watch in fear as planes fly over a playground at a site for the displaced, in Beirut, the capital.|
By Jane O’Brien and Sabine Dolan
NEW YORK, USA, 26 July 2006 – The first convoy of humanitarian supplies for children has reached Tyre in southern Lebanon. The joint UN convoy contains 40 tonnes of much-needed emergency supplies destined for the tens of thousands of displaced children affected by the ongoing violence between Israel and Hezbollah.
To support their work in the region, 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 on Monday 24 July, the appeal urges the global community to help displaced and refugee children and families in their hour of critical need.
“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 in New York. “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.”
|On 22 July, a truck carrying the first post-crisis shipment of relief items from UNICEF’s international supply warehouse in Denmark arrives at Lebanese Red Cross Headquarters in Beirut, the capital.|
Reaching the most vulnerable
At least 710,000 Lebanese civilians have been displaced so far because of the conflict. Of these, about half a million are sheltered with relatives or friends, or staying in churches and mosques. About 100,000 have fled to Syria, Jordan, Cyprus and the Gulf area while more than 110,000 are sheltered in schools.
UNICEF estimates that 45 per cent of the displaced are children. Meanwhile, more than a third of those already killed and injured have been children.
In a statement today, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman reiterated the importance of reaching the most vulnerable children.
“Unhindered access is a critical component of any humanitarian response and an obligation under international law,” Ms. Veneman said, speaking while on mission in Ghana. “It is urgent that we reach these children with emergency relief and supplies that can make the difference between life and death.”
|From the hills overlooking Beirut, a child watches smoke rise from Rafiq Hariri Airport following Israeli air strikes.|
UNICEF has been appointed the lead UN agency for water and sanitation in the conflict area.
Today they delivered to southern Lebanon 1,800 boxes of water purification tablets, 110 family water kits, 1,000 bags of diapers, 2,000 bags of feminine hygiene pads and 175 boxes of soap. UNICEF has already provided $1.2 million for medical supplies and other immediate assistance.
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.
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.”
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 countries have already pledged financial support in response to the UN Flash Appeal for Lebanon, including Canada, the European Commission, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand and Trinidad and Tobago. More is expected in the days to come.
27 July 2006: UNICEF Field Security Advisor in Lebanon Omar Aboud speaks about the difficult journey of UNICEF’s first convoy of humanitarian supplies to reach Tyre in southern Lebanon.
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]