16 August 2006

Humanitarian Factsheet on Lebanon

NEW YORK, 15 August (UN Headquarters) -- The following has been prepared by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):

Humanitarian Concerns

The cessation of hostilities, which came into effect at 0500 GMT yesterday, continues to hold generally, although a few skirmishes between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Hizbollah have been reported.

-- As tens of thousands of displaced persons stream back into southern Lebanon, the Government and the United Nations remained seriously concerned by the danger posed by unexploded ordnance.  The United Nations Mine Action Service yesterday reported several incidents, which led to the death of one child and wounding of eight civilians.

-- Tyre remains without power due to IDF air strikes against the power plant on the night of 12 to 13 August.

-- Although humanitarian supplies are arriving into Lebanon by sea, the continuing IDF naval blockade is imposing serious constraints.  For example, the World Food Programme (WFP) -- chartered ship Anamcara is set to sail from Beirut to Tyre tonight; however, what should normally be a four-hour trip will take 16 hours due to the need for the ship to exit Lebanese waters before sailing south and then re-entering national waters.

-- Although the two ships carrying fuel for Lebanon remain off-shore according to latest reports, the fuel crisis may be eased soon as 30 trucks have brought fuel from the Jiyyeh power plant to Beirut.  Negotiations on bringing the two tankers into Beirut are nearing completion.

Population Returns

-- Tens of thousands of displaced persons are returning to their home areas in Lebanon; although there are no precise numbers, an estimated 200,000 people are believed to have begun the return to their homes in the past 36 hours.

-- The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) yesterday reported an estimated 6,000 people leaving Beirut for southern Lebanon, while the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon reported 7,000 to 8,000 people moving south to Nabatiye, Tyre, Sarita, Qana, and Jwayya.

-- UNHCR also reported that some 10,000 Lebanese moved back into Lebanon from Syria yesterday; by 1200 local today, an additional 8,000 returnees had been reported.  UNHCR is organizing bus convoys to assist those Lebanese without the necessary means to return from Syria:  an 18-bus convoy for 250 people is to leave Damascus for Beirut and Saida (Sidon) today, while an 8-bus convoy is bringing 320 Lebanese to Hermel, Baalbek, Tripoli and Beirut.

-- UNHCR is prepared to assist up to 50,000 returnees from Syria.

Humanitarian Activities

-- The two humanitarian convoys dispatched to Tyre immediately after the cessation of hostilities yesterday had arrived.  Seven to the 24 trucks had already distributed food and water in Tyre and nearby villages, while 14 trucks are proceeding to the villages of Rmeish and Debel today.

-- In total, seven humanitarian convoys are travelling overland today, including to towns in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley.

-- In addition to the WFP-chartered Anamcara, the Kazim Genc, a Turkish ship chartered by the United Nations is also off-loading supplies at Beirut today.

-- Some 50,000 tents, 230,000 mattresses and 172,000 blankets are currently en route to Lebanon.

Lebanon Flash Appeal

-- To date, just over $81 million had been committed to the $165 million flash appeal for Lebanon, or 49 per cent of requirements; an additional $10.5 million in pledges had also been recorded.

-- The Government of Sweden had announced that it will host a donor conference for Lebanon on 31 August, the day before it hosts a similar donor conference for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The event, organized in conjunction with the Government of Lebanon and United Nations, will focus on humanitarian needs and early reconstruction.

For further information, please call:  Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679; Kristen Knutson, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570.  OCHA press releases are available at http://ochaonline.un.org  or www.reliefweb.int .

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