U.S. Assistance Reaches South Lebanon

By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - Marine Corps Brigadier General Carl Jensen says the U.S. military in the Middle East is ready to deliver humanitarian assistance to Lebanon.

Speaking from Cyprus on July 26 by videoconference to reporters at the Pentagon, Jensen said the first basic medical supplies, in the form of health kits, were provided to Lebanon July 25.

The U.S. military is on the leading edge of the delivery operation, but the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is running the overall mission, he said.

In Washington, USAID Assistant Administrator for Asia and the Near East James Kunder said humanitarian aid now is reaching displaced people in Lebanon. “Initial American medical supplies have been sent to the south and are being distributed there,” he told journalists at a July 27 briefing.

With Cyprus as a regional staging ground, Kunder said, the ships, planes and helicopters used to evacuate American citizens in the past week were loaded with relief supplies for return trips to Lebanon. The shipments then were placed in the hands of relief organizations for delivery to people in need.

A USAID disaster assistance response team currently is analyzing the scope of the humanitarian emergency to determine what is needed to alleviate suffering in Lebanon.

Currently, Kunder said, the greatest need is for health and shelter supplies. Blankets and plastic sheeting has been sent. “Fuel is critical,” he said, and is being sent to keep generators going and provide a means to purify drinking water.

“After the humanitarian phase of the operation, there will be a large reconstruction effort in Lebanon,” he said. “The U.S. government will be looking at reconstruction needs in Lebanon as well as humanitarian needs.”

This follows a series of meetings Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held in Lebanon and Israel July 24 and July 25, in which she sought to establish access corridors “to get humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people.” (See related article.)

The United States already has pledged $30 million in immediate humanitarian assistance for Lebanon.  The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration also is giving $3.4 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross in response to its emergency appeal for Lebanon and another $1 million to the International Organization for Migration.

Of the funds pledged, $11 million already has been sent, Kunder said. To meet the most urgent needs in Lebanon quickly, the United States has shipped supplies directly from U.S. government stockpiles close to the region. Aid also is being funneled through U.N. agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, and other organizations working with local organizations to distribute supplies wherever they are needed.

Jensen, who commands the U.S. military’s Task Force 59, had been coordinating the efforts of 5,000 U.S. military personnel to facilitate the departure of approximately 14,000 American citizens from Lebanon after fighting broke out between Hizballah and Israel July 12.  He said most of the Americans wishing to leave have done so and the number now arriving at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, has diminished from thousands daily to hundreds.


Jensen said the governments of Cyprus and Turkey also helped Americans depart Lebanon, a mission that involved the U.S. European, Central, Pacific, Atlantic and Transportation Commands.  Both governments “really helped out when we needed them to,” he said.

Although that aspect of the military operation has wound down, Jensen said, the number of U.S. Navy ships in the vicinity remains the same. This includes the amphibious transport, USS Nashville, the guided missile destroyers USS Gonzalez and USS Barry, and four other naval vessels.

“We will be here as long as the ambassador [Jeffrey Feltman] needs us to do the job that we’ve been assigned,” he said.  Feltman declared a humanitarian emergency in Lebanon on July 25, clearing the way for the delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance.

Additional information about U.S. relief efforts for Lebanon is available on the USAID Web site.

For more information about U.S. policy, see International Security.