Copyrighted material


by Sabina Zaccaro

on Israeli operations in Lebanon

(IPS) -- As the humanitarian crisis deepens in Lebanon, life-saving relief supply needs to get there soon, aid experts say.

The International Red Cross appealed Friday for $81 million to help victims of the fighting in Lebanon. Food resources and access to water and basic services are extremely restricted, it said. Aid operations are meanwhile difficult, and cannot meet the needs of the people.

The United Nations said in a statement that the most urgent need is for international assistance "to meet the needs for three months of an estimated 900,000 people who have been displaced, wounded or otherwise affected by the fighting."

Almost a quarter of Lebanon's four million people have been directly affected. They have been displaced by fighting or cut off in villages made inaccessible after connecting roads were bombed out.

The international conference on the Lebanon crisis held in Rome earlier this week failed to agree on immediate cease-fire.

"The missed cease-fire decision basically means that multitudes of civilians go on pouring into the mountains, or to the Syrian and Jordan borders, which is an epic voyage," Gianni Rufini, associate professor specialising in post-war reconstruction and development at the University of York in Britain told IPS from Amman.

"Furthermore, water and basic food reserves -- whose prices have risen 400 percent in Beirut since the beginning of the crisis -- are quickly dwindling, while tons of food stand on the frontiers since immunity for the convoys has not been respected so far."

Caritas Lebanon, part of the international network of Catholic humanitarian agencies and a key player in relief assistance in Lebanon since 1975, says it has assisted about 30,000 people who have lost their homes.

"We have raised 10 million dollars to respond to the major needs of the displaced, and we are coordinating with other agencies for delivering medicines, hygiene items and baby milk," Georges Massoud Khoury, director of Caritas Lebanon told IPS in a phone interview.

"But international superpowers must ask to cease fire as soon as possible because when the war will stop, it will take years for these people to return to their normal life."

Khoury said governments will not help people rebuild homes after the war ends, because their priority will be reconstruction of destroyed public infrastructure. "The reconstruction stage will be the most tragic for people and their families."

Patrizia Sentinelli, Italian deputy minister for foreign affairs in charge of development cooperation told IPS that "we shouldn't forget that the duty and mandate of international cooperation is to act for infrastructure rebuilding and social development of the affected countries."

Italy plans to participate actively in assisting deprived Lebanese people and in reconstruction, she said. But further, "what we as the Italian government think is that our country is the right candidate for facilitating a dialogue that has to be restored in the whole Arab world."

How long reconstruction takes will depend on how long the war lasts, experts say, and on what fragmentation effect it has on Lebanese society. Social and political rebuilding could be the main challenges..

"The Mideast crisis, which I consider the mother of all crises, has to be resolved at a political level," Rufini said. "Humanitarian aid counts for a part only -- though crucial -- since here civilians are being hit. The final target is political."

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Albion Monitor   July 29, 2006   (

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