18 August 2006

Humanitarian Factsheet on Lebanon

NEW YORK, 17 August (UN Headquarters) -- The following has been prepared by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):

Population Returns

-- Thousands of displaced Lebanese continue to return to their home areas.  The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 6,000 people are headed back toward the worst-hit areas in southern Lebanon per hour.

-- Of the 130,000 people who had registered as displaced in the southern port town of Saida (Sidon), only an estimated 13,000 remain.

-- More than 81,000 Lebanese had returned from Syria by midnight Wednesday, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  Furthermore, it is expected that between 110,000 and 120,000 Lebanese will have returned from Syria by midnight tonight, in total, representing a significant exodus from the peak of 180,000 Lebanese in Syria before the cessation of hostilities.

-- UNHCR announced that buses from Damascus will travel only to Beirut and Tripoli today.  More southern destinations have been cancelled due to congestion on the roads into southern Lebanon.

Humanitarian Activities

-- The first preliminary assessment of the southern suburbs of Beirut by the United Nations reports there is an urgent need to provide clean drinking water, food, medicine, and non-food items such as mattresses and blankets for the hundreds of thousands of people who have returned there.

-- Three humanitarian convoys were dispatched today:  11 World Food Programme (WFP) trucks are headed to Marjayoun; 15 trucks are en route to Saida (Sidon) and Tyre -- three for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and seven for WFP will terminate at Saida, while five for UNHCR will continue to Tyre; and 10 trucks -- five for WFP and five for UNICEF -- and a World Health Organization (WHO) fuel tanker left Tyre for Bint Jbeil.

-- WFP has distributed more than 1,300 metric tons of food to over 262,000 Lebanese.

-- WHO is supporting the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health in finalizing a rapid health facilities assessment for southern Lebanon.  WHO is also sending more than 120 trauma and six doctor's kits with equipment for some 12,000 operations to the hospital in Marjayoun.

-- The fuel tanker Gamci docked in Beirut port yesterday and is offloading fuel for Government power plants.  Two other fuel tankers are expected to dock in Beirut soon.

Mine Action

-- A Chinese demining team from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has begun operations to clear unexploded ordnance in various locations in southern Lebanon.

-- The non-governmental organization, Mines Advisory Group, reports an intense clearance effort is ongoing in and around Nabatiye, with munitions contamination and injuries in every community they have accessed.  The clearance of some small villages alone may take two to three weeks.  Unexploded ordnance will also have an economic impact, as crops cannot be safely harvested.

Lebanon Flash Appeal

-- To date, some $86.3 million has been committed to the $165 million Flash Appeal for Lebanon, or 52 per cent of requirements; an additional $7.5 million in pledges have also been recorded.

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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