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News note

UN moves aid south of Litani immediately after cessation of hostilities

BEIRUT, 14 August 2006 – Following the announcement of a cessation of hostilities by both sides in Lebanon today, United Nations aid agencies immediately stepped up their efforts to bring relief to the hundreds of thousands of civilians affected by the conflict. The priority is to deliver supplies to the area south of the Litani river, which has borne the brunt of the fighting.

Within minutes of the cessation of hostilities coming into effect at 0800 hours local time this morning (0500 GMT), two UN convoys of trucks began moving south from Sidon.

A total of 24 trucks, carrying food, medical supplies, water and sanitary goods, will head for the southern city of Tyre.

“With the ceasefire in place, there can no longer be any no-go areas in Lebanon,” said David Shearer, UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Lebanon. “As a precautionary measure during the transition period, we will continue to notify both sides of our movements.”

Before the ceasefire, the UN had to go through a lengthy and complicated process to receive “concurrence on safety” from both sides before any aid convoy could move to any destination in Lebanon. This process, regarded by the humanitarian community as a major impediment to relief efforts, will now be abandoned.

The UN is also setting up humanitarian hubs in key locations inside Lebanon to facilitate and speed up the distribution of aid. These hubs will be in the ports of Tyre, Sidon and Tripoli, where they can be supplied by land and sea, as well as in the eastern town of Zahle, in the Beka’a valley.

“Up until now, our efforts to reach people with desperately needed aid have been severely hampered by the damage inflicted by bombs on roads and bridges, forcing us to take lengthy and circuitous detours. With the hubs in place our operations will be far more effective and fast,” said Thomas Keusters, WFP Head of Logistics in Lebanon.

Yesterday, a roll-on roll-off ferry, the Anamcara, docked in Beirut, bringing food and other relief supplies for UN agencies and several non-government organisations. The Anamcara will be used to bring further aid supplies to the south, with the first shipment to Tyre expected this week.

“Getting assistance to people who have lost everything is crucial right now,” said Shearer. “But that is only a small part of what needs to be done. The most important thing to bring about Lebanon’s recovery is the full resumption of commercial and economic activity.”

While expressing cautious optimism that the ceasefire would hold, Shearer said that the south would remain very dangerous for many weeks to come. He urged the population to exercise extreme caution, due to the large quantities of unexploded artillery and mortar shells strewn across the countryside. 

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:
Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF New York: (+1 212) 326 7261, jsedky@unicef.org

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

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

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

Simon Ingram, UNICEF Beirut (+961) 70 971 387, singram@unicef.org

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




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