U.S. Pledges Additional $20 Million Humanitarian Aid to Lebanon

By Steve Kaufman and Lea Terhune
Washington File Staff Writers

Washington - Aid is reaching areas in southern Lebanon that need it most, as the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah remains stable. Deliveries of humanitarian supplies stalled by the conflict, including nearly $30 million of the initial U.S. aid commitment, are reaching thousands of displaced Lebanese.

Aid agencies, along with a flood of returning refugees, travel over broken roads to bring supplies and assess the situation. Operations Director for Medicins Sans Frontieres Christopher Stokes told Reuters, “There’s two kinds of people who need help now: those who stayed behind and couldn’t leave during the fighting, and those arriving back.”

At the White House, press secretary Tony Snow told reporters August 16 that the United States and the members of the international community, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq, already have pledged $425 million to help with Lebanon’s reconstruction, and that $24 million of the $30 million pledged by the United States for humanitarian relief is already on the ground and available for use.

“We've made commitments strictly on the humanitarian side. There is a separate pot of money … for reconstruction” that will be discussed by the United States and other countries at an August 31 donors conference, Snow said.

Snow drew attention to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s commitment of an additional $20 million of humanitarian aid to Lebanon.  She made the announcement at the United Nations Security Council August 11 as a response to “overwhelming suffering, and heartache, and loss.”

In an August 16 op-ed in the Washington Post, Rice said the aid is “a first step,” designed to help the Lebanese people “emerge from this conflict with more opportunities and greater prosperity.”

“Looking ahead, our most pressing challenge is to help the hundreds of thousands of displaced people within Lebanon to return to their homes and rebuild their lives. This reconstruction effort will be led by the government of Lebanon, but it will demand the generosity of the whole world,” she said. (See op-ed.)

Currently, the U.S. relief assistance is being funneled through the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) and United Nations agencies, including the World Health Organization and World Food Program. Nongovernmental organizations Mercy Corps, Catholic Relief Services and the International Medical Corps also are involved.

The World Food Program said it sent 19 trucks to Hasbaya in the southeast. A ship loaded with food and relief supplies was sent from Beirut to Tyre. A large convoy from Syria and supplies airlifted from Jordan were slated for delivery August 16.

Meanwhile, people are streaming back to their homes in the south. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Astrid van Genderen Stort said,  “An enormous amount of people are moving. To meet their needs, we have 50,000 tents, 270,000 mattresses and blankets and other supplies in the pipeline.”

A danger to people returning to what remains of their homes and complicating the aid distribution process is the large quantity of unexploded ordnance.  The United States is working with the United Nations and the Lebanese army to distribute ordinance awareness leaflets throughout the area.

For additional information, see The Middle East: A Vision for the Future.