Shortages of water, shelter as most Lebanese returned
Lebanon-Israel-UN, Politics, 8/22/2006
With most Lebanese who fled the devastating month-long conflict in their homeland now having gone back to their homes, United Nations agencies on the ground have identified shortages of clean water and shelter as two of the most pressing needs faced by the hundreds of thousands of returnees.
"I have never seen destruction like this," said UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) water and sanitation specialist Branislav Jekic, after the agency conducted preliminary assessments in southern Lebanon. "Wherever we go, we ask people what they need most and the answer is always the same: water."
"People want to move back to their communities. But whether they stay or not will depend on the availability of water."
In 10 out of 12 war-affected communities visited by UNICEF in recent days, underground pipes and other water-related infrastructure had been seriously damaged or destroyed, the agency said, adding that it had stepped up its response to deal with the problem.
Since the beginning of the crisis on 12 July, more than a quarter of a million litres of bottled water has been sent to some of the worst-hit communities including Bint Jubail, Ait el Shaab and Tibnin. Currently, around 50,000 litres a week are being sent south by truck, but this quantity will more than double by the weekend.
Teams from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have also described similar needs in their assessments on the ground, highlighting also the destruction in the south.
"A UNHCR team that went through nine villages along the border on Monday saw this reality. Four of the villages were largely destroyed, with buildings razed and rubble strewn over the ground," spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva.
"In response to requests for rebuilding assistance, UNHCR is preparing emergency repair tool kits that include plastic sheeting, plywood, corrugated metal sheets, wood, as well as basic tools such as hammers, nails, shovels."
According to Lebanon's Interior Ministry, some 97 per cent of those displaced by the conflict between Hizbollah and Israel have now returned to their homes, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today. OCHA also said that four more convoys of UN aid left Beirut for the south.
Further on the humanitarian front, the UN Development Program (UNDP), with the support of the World Bank, has donated $500,000 to Lebanon for emergency relief, a UN spokesman said in New York. UNDP has also established a political advisory group within the Lebanese Prime Minister's Office, concentrating on support to the recovery and reconstruction effort, with initial funding of $800,000.
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