U.S. Humanitarian Aid Flowing to Lebanese Villages

By Lea Terhune
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – Relief agencies are taking every opportunity to get aid to the worst hit areas in Lebanon, but safe passage amid heavy exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah remains inconsistent.

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) was able to deliver 3,000 meals and hundreds of blankets and tarpaulins to the village of Hasbaya near Marjayoun in southern Lebanon on August 2. The same day, an ICRC ship filled with 110 tons of relief supplies docked at the port of Tyre.

The ICRC, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Medical Corps are distributing U.S. medical supplies in Beirut and southern Lebanon. But progress is slow.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in its August 2 report on the Lebanese humanitarian emergency, said, “Ongoing conflict continues to restrict humanitarian access.” According to the United Nations, several planned convoys to southern Lebanon have been cancelled because of Israeli military operations in the area.

The World Food Program (WFP), a U.N. agency tasked with delivery of humanitarian aid, has negotiated the delivery of two fuel shipments to the ports of Beirut and Tyre to meet critical fuel needs. WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume told the Associated Press, “Almost all the petrol stations are shut. Fuel supplies for power stations and water pumping stations are all but exhausted.”

The two tankers will carry 50,000 tons of fuel oil and 37,000 tons of diesel oil. The United Nations and other relief agencies are working with the Higher Relief Council (HRC) of the government of Lebanon to distribute aid from the ports to the interior of the country.

“Since the start of the crisis, WFP has dispatched nine humanitarian convoys to south Lebanon from Beirut, supplying the following locations: Tyre, Jezzine, Sidon, Qana and Tebnin. In total, the convoys have delivered some 280 metric tons of food, enough to feed 80,000 people for one week,” WFP reported August 2. Deliveries include food, medical supplies and shelter materials.

Most Lebanese displaced by the conflict are in south Beirut, Tyre, Sidon, Chouf and Aaley. Many are living in schools or other public areas. An estimated 220,000 people have fled to neighboring countries, 150,000 of those to Syria. Although the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) estimates that 75 percent to 80 percent of the population has fled from the Lebanon-Israel border, many villages remain unreachable. The government of Lebanon puts the total number of displaced persons at nearly 700,000.

U.S. military continue to assist in humanitarian operations and “have been integral in delivery of ... USAID emergency relief supplies,” according to the USAID report.

Approximately $20 million of the $30 million in aid money already committed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will come from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

Aside from U.N. agencies and the ICRC, other partners in relief distribution are Mercy Corps and the International Organization for Migration. American nongovernmental organizations on the ground in Lebanon include the American Friends Services Committee, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children USA, and World Vision, among others.

Rice said August 1 that a cease-fire and lasting settlement in the three-week-old conflict between Israel and Hezbollah likely will come within “days not weeks.” (See related article.)

She said there should be a cease-fire as soon as it is clear that the U.N. Security Council has formulated a resolution that will support the extension of Lebanese government authority over the entire country.  After intensive discussions in the region with Israeli and Lebanese leaders, Rice sent the matter to the Security Council where U.S. and French diplomats are working on a resolution that would provide for a sustainable cease-fire, introduce a multinational force to support the Lebanese army in south Lebanon, and create a “sustainable and durable” peace that allows Lebanon’s government to operate effectively throughout its territory.

Additional information and updates on humanitarian assistance to Lebanon is available on the USAID Web site.