|Lebanese citizens in a bus flee from the southern Beirut suburbs after Israeli forces air-dropped leaflets warning them to evacuate.|
By Sabine Dolan
NEW YORK, USA, 11 August 2006 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman today reiterated her call for a cessation of hostilities in Lebanon to allow humanitarian agencies to deliver emergency aid.
“Thousands of families and children critically need support,” said Ms. Veneman. “At present we are unable to reach the majority of them. The protection of women and children in times of war is the responsibility of all parties to a conflict – children should not be the innocent victims of war.”
Ms. Veneman had previously urged a cessation of hostilities in a 30 July statement supporting a similar appeal by the UN Secretary-General. As she renewed the call for humanitarian access today, diplomatic efforts to put an end to the month-long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah intensified at the United Nations.
|A cargo ship carrying emergency supplies provided by the French Government, UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees leaving the port of Marseille, France, bound for Lebanon.|
Conditions worsening daily
UNICEF’s relief efforts to date have been severely hampered by the escalation of violence and the devastation of Lebanon’s transport infrastructure.
With roads and bridges destroyed and no sea routes currently open, it has proven almost impossible to provide essential assistance to nearly 1 million displaced people – including enclaves of vulnerable civilians cut off in the south of the country.
“Many children have been killed or injured in the conflict,” said Ms. Veneman. “Countless others are living in extremely precarious conditions which are worsening daily, with limited access to clean water, food, medicine and hygiene supplies. With fuel supplies dwindling, hospital operations are threatened along with other vital services.”
|A Lebanese woman cries as she passes the ruins of a building destroyed by bombing in Beirut.|
Aid shipment en route
Meanwhile a cargo ship carrying relief supplies provided by the French Government, UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is leaving the port of Marseille, France, bound for Lebanon.
UNICEF provided the ship with 18 tons of emergency rations – including 224,000 nutrition bars packed with micronutrients for children – along with eight vehicles to assist in mobile distribution efforts. More than 30 aid agencies supplied a total of 2,000 tonnes of emergency goods such as ambulances, clothing, tents, water and sanitation supplies, medicine and food. The ship is due to arrive in Beirut on 18 August.
With so much at stake for so many traumatized civilians, UNICEF hopes a cessation of hostilities will provide aid agencies with a window of opportunity to deliver these and other desperately needed supplies.
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