LEBANON: Obstacles to Providing Humanitarian Assistance Persist
July 25, 2006
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have been carrying out assessments in Lebanon since last week. The suffering and the human cost of this war are appalling, and the civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence. There are reports of hundreds of wounded and, so far, more than 300 people killed. The Lebanese authorities estimate that more than 500,000 people have fled their homes. They are dependent on the assistance provided by their relatives, friends, and the authorities of the villages and towns where they have found refuge. Especially families who lack financial resources now find themselves completely helpless. They need clean drinking water, blankets, mattresses, hygienic kits, and some food items (such as infant formula). MSF is concerned that the humanitarian needs will further increase and may lead to a catastrophic situation if the conflict persists.
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Since the start of the war it has been the Lebanese medical staff, local authorities, and community associations that have provided most of the assistance. But they are already overstretched by the growing humanitarian needs and their capacities are obviously affected by the conflict. There is a real risk the situation will continue to deteriorate if massive assistance is not provided.
Because of the ongoing conflict MSF field teams and all other aid workers are facing very dangerous conditions, especially in the south of the country. There have been reports that ambulances and trucks transporting assistance have been bombarded in violation of the most essential humanitarian obligations. Access to civilians in the most exposed zones is difficult and dangerous. This is unacceptable and could have tragic consequences.
MSF has been able to transport aid shipments from Cyprus by sea and from Syria over land to Beirut. Field teams have started to provide assistance in Beirut and the Chouf area, as well as in the towns of Tyre and Jezinne in the south of the country. There has been an agreement reached between the warring parties to facilitate the transport of humanitarian aid to Beirut via sea and possibly via air. But this is only a first step. Bridges, roads, and other infrastructure have been destroyed. Humanitarian aid will only be effective if it reaches those most at risk: the displaced and the people in areas that are most affected by the bombardments and fighting.
MSF Activities in Lebanon
MSF has already sent 85 tons of supplies from Cyprus to Beirut to aid displaced Lebanese civilians. The shipment includes:
- 2,000 family tents
- 20,000 blankets
- 2,000 hygiene kits
- 2,000 cooking kits
- medical kits
In Beirut there are 49,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in 200 to 300 schools. MSF is helping local organizations set up two or three mobile clinics. In Beirut, the teams have been purchasing relief goods to add to the materials that are arriving from overseas. MSF has also visited the northern city of Tripoli, where no immediate needs were found.
There are more than 100,000 IDPs in the Shouf region southeast of the capital, Beirut. Half of the displaced have been registered, and some of them are living in precarious conditions. MSF is working in Alaay and Beit Ed Dine districts where there is a lack of drinking water and where food is being provided by the community. The IDPs do not have any means to sustain themselves. The medical situation is being monitored by the Lebanese. MSF plans to carry out a large-scale distribution of 85 tons of non-food items (NFIs): 2,000 tents, 2,000 cooking sets, 2,000 hygiene kits, and 2,000 blankets. These materials, together with medical equipment, have arrived by ferry to Beirut.
MSF teams have been in Saida (Sidon), a coastal city south of Beirut, since July 23. The five hospitals in the city do not appear to be overcrowded but are in need of medications for patients with chronic diseases. The local authorities report that there are 42,000 displaced people in the city. MSF plans to provide medical assistance through mobile clinics and donations of medicine.
In Jezzine, approximately 40 km south-east of Beirut, and due east of Saida, MSF has delivered a one-month supply of drugs and emergency medical materials to the local hospital. About 4,500 IDPs from the south arrived in Jezinne, adding to city's normal population of 20,000. Most of the IDPs are staying in private homes. Approximately 600 other IDPs have sought shelter in schools and MSF has distributed mattresses, blankets, and infant formula to them.
In Tyre, a coastal city in south Lebanon, an estimated 60,000 of the city's 100,000 residents have fled, while some 20,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have entered the city. On July 23, 25 wounded people arrived during a 30-minute period in Najem Hospital in Tyre. People there expect a deterioration of the situation and food appears to be the primary need for the affected population. MSF teams have visited five hospitals, two of which are in Ar Rashidiye, south of Tyre, where medical and surgical equipment are needed. An MSF surgeon specializing in vascular surgery has begun to work in the Palestinian Red Crescent Hospital in Ar Rashidiye.
In Syria, MSF is monitoring the situation regarding Lebanese refugees, including along the border, where transit camps may be established.
More MSF international staff and supplies are expected to arrive in Syria and Lebanon in the coming days.
|Tens of Thousands Seek Safety in Chouf Region
Annick Hamel, MSF head of mission in Lebanon, evaluating the needs in the region of Chouf, a mountainous area east of Beirut. Tens of thousands of displaced have found refuge there and are in need of assistance.
"There are approximately 100,000 displaced here. New families continue to arrive every day and the villages are already saturated. The villagers shelter the displaced either in their homes or in public facilities (schools and public halls) and offer them food, water, and mattresses. There are also doctors and nurses–all Lebanese volunteers–that come to carry out consultations and provide medical care. At the beginning of the war, when there were fewer numbers of displaced, the villages managed to cope: but now everyone says that if this continues food and water will start to become scarce, as well as certain medicines–particularly for chronic pathologies. The situation is deteriorating. Among the displaced there are people who are sad, depressed. They say that their village is still being bombarded, that family members are still lying under the rubble, that they could not bury their dead. They have lost part of their family. Yesterday we met a father, whose wife had been killed, who now finds himself alone with five children. He was completely lost."