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LEBANON: Operational Update
July 28, 2006
Access to the south of Lebanon remains difficult because of shelling and bombardments, which have destroyed roads and buildings. Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) sent three vans carrying drugs from Beirut to Tyre on July 26 and an MSF surgeon and medical team are now working in the town. More medical and surgical equipment is needed, as well as food.
In Beirut, approximately 50,000 displaced people are living in several hundred schools. MSF has started running mobile clinics in eastern Beirut and is collaborating with a local organization to set up more mobile clinics.
MSF sent 80 tons of relief goods, such as tents, blankets, and cooking equipment to Beirut by ferry and began distributing them in the Aley and Beit Ed Dine districts yesterday.
There are more than 100,000 displaced people in the Chouf region south-east of Beirut. Some of them are in a vulnerable situation. Food is being provided by the local community but there is a lack of drinking water. Lebanese medical teams have the capacity to deal with the current medical needs, but they lack medicines for chronic diseases.
According to local authorities, there are 42,000 displaced people in the town of Saida. The five hospitals in the city do not appear to be overcrowded but they need medicines for chronic diseases. MSF plans to start running mobile clinics in order to provide medical care.
In Jezzine, MSF has supplied the hospital with drugs and emergency medical material. In addition to the city's normal population of 30,000, there are estimated to be roughly 4,500 people in the town who have fled from the south of the country. MSF has distributed mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits, and baby formula to over one thousand displaced people housed in schools. They are continuing to supply relief goods to smaller groups that have sought shelter in private homes and in the area surrounding the town.
Teams have visited the town of Nabatiye, located south-east of Saida, where 20,000 of the original 60,000 inhabitants have stayed despite severe damage to the town. MSF will supply the local hospital with emergency medical supplies, including drugs needed during surgery.
In Syria, MSF is assessing the needs of refugees both in Damascus and in the border areas. A team has started to assist 3,000 refugees sheltered in schools, gyms, and hangars.
More MSF international staff and supplies are expected to arrive in Syria and Lebanon in the coming days.
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.