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Christopher Stokes: Relief Materials Needed in South Lebanon, but Supplying is Almost Impossible
Relief materials needed in south Lebanon, but supplying is almost impossible
July 25, 2006
Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Director of Operations, Christopher Stokes, describes over the phone from Beirut what he has seen traveling to the south of Lebanon and back.
"I entered into Lebanon three days ago and went straight to the south to join our teams there. As we made our way further and further into the south what we saw was two kinds of Lebanon. You have the Lebanon of the mountains, the Shouf, which has for the moment been spared by the conflict but is receiving lots of displaced. Tens of thousands of people are settling there in collective centers and schools.
"And then as we moved out of the mountains further to the south, closer to where the fighting as been taking place, you have a huge area of land, 50 or 60 kilometers deep from the border, where there has been shelling, where bombs landed on motorways and apartment blocks, and there a lot of people have fled.
"You enter into these towns that appear to be ghost towns, but actually 30 or 40 percent of the population have stayed but they are living in their apartments behind the shutters and they are not getting out. They are also not getting out to seek medical assistance. They are very isolated for the moment. They are definitely a population in need, as well as the wounded.
"On top of that, in these southern towns that are under bombardment you have displaced who are stuck there and are living in basements, in much worse conditions. They are in need of basic supplies: mattresses, blankets, food, milk powder... Just the basic things that you need to live.
Since the weekend, a team of MSF has been based in the southern city of Tyre, or Sour. An MSF doctor is supporting the staff in one of the hospitals. "In the hospital in Tyre they received 24 wounded in a very short period of time. The people that our team saw were clearly civilians and they had been hit traveling not far from the hospital itself. The hospital staff were having difficulty coping with that.
"I like to highlight when it comes to the wounded that still in many places the Lebanese surgeons—and there is a lot of high-level, qualified medical staff in the country—have remained in the hospitals. They have remained in their places even in the areas where they are very much at risk and in danger. And their main issue is that some of them are quite tired because they have been working heavily recently, but also supplies is a key issue for them. They are beginning to run out of some basic supplies.
But transporting much needed supplies is a very difficult task, as trucks carrying relief goods are not safe from the bombardments. Says Stokes, "We wish we could do more. We are quite limited in what we can do in Tyre. To get supplies in there to the south is very difficult. Obviously you need trucks, you need to be able to move around. For the moment our teams are stuck, while we are trying to organize supplies for the southern part by tomorrow afternoon, using smaller kinds of private vehicles."