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UN seeks $149 million aid for Lebanon

July 25, 2006 10:52 IST

With an estimated eight lakh people displaced in Lebanon following breakout of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, the United Nations has sought immediately $149 million from international donors to cover their basic needs over next three months.

The money would be used to give food, healthcare, water, sanitation, logistics and other basic services to people displaced by the conflict which, the UN says, is worsening.

"The aid community can help save lives in this region," said Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who is in Lebanon for first hand study of the situation and plans to travel to occupied Palestinian territories at a later date.

"More supplies are on their way but we need safe access so that we can get the aid to those who need it most," he stressed, echoing earlier UN calls that humanitarian workers and supplies be allowed for those most in need.

Two weeks of fighting between the Israeli Defence Force and Hezbollah has killed over 350 people and wounded more than 1,500 inside Lebanon, while in Israel over 34 people have been killed and 200 wounded, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Monday.

Launching the appeal, Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Coordinator Margareta Wahlstrwm indicted that funds sought might be revised upward as it is difficult to assess the needs at this time because of difficulty in accessing the needy.

She criticised all sides in the conflict for violating humanitarian law by not doing more to prevent civilian casualties.

"The extremely vulnerable situation of the civilian population I think is very evident to all of us. It is clear that all parties to this conflict are in violation of international humanitarian law by not taking due care to prevent the civilians from being injured and being caught in the middle of this conflict," Wahlstrwm said.

The UN Children's Fund said it was asking for almost $24 million out of the total appeal to provide rapid support for displaced or refugee children and families who are in urgent need of medical care and other essentials.

"Many of those who have been uprooted in the violence are children," Ann Veneman, UNICEF executive director, said, adding that children face the immediate danger of disease and will be impacted by the loss of hospitals, health clinics and schools.

For its part, the UN refugee agency has asked for almost $19 million for helping 150,000 vulnerable displaced people in Lebanon and neighbouring countries.

"The plight of the displaced in Lebanon is growing more difficult by the hour and it is crucial that we get the humanitarian pipeline flowing now," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

"UNHCR is trucking some 40 trailers loaded with over 500 tons of aid supplies from our regional warehouse in Jordan to Syria," he said.

In addition, UNHCR has sent an emergency response team comprising humanitarian specialists who will augment the agency's staff in Syria and Lebanon. The World Health Organisation, which is coordinating the UN's health action in collaboration with Lebanon's Health Ministry, is appealing for $32.4 million.

"Funding from the international community for health will save lives and reduce suffering," said Ala Din Alwan, the WHO director general's representative for health action in crises.

Dharam Shourie in United Nations
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