Lebanese return as Beirut airport opens for business

Washing clothes has now become a communal affair in the schoolyard for Lebanese displaced, August 17, 2006. (IRINNews/Alex Warren)


Lebanon response OCHA situation report No. 25

KEY DEVELOPMENTS

120,000 to Have Left Syria by Tonight

UNHCR reports that they expect some 120,000 people to have returned to Lebanon from Syria by midnight tonight with collective centers at Aleppo, Homs and Tartus virtually empty. WFP estimates that only 1,850 people are left in shelters in Damascus.

UXO Contamination Widespread

The UK’s Mine Action Group (MAG) warns that UXO clearance of some villages on the Nabatiye area alone will take weeks. Clearance of UXOs near civilian residences is a priority with the rush to return. MAG suggests that the UXO contamination in Lebanon is on a far higher scale than that identified in Iraq after the end of the war in 2003.

First Commercial Flight Arrives in Beirut

The first international commercial passenger flight arrived in Beirut today. Middle Eastern Airlines (MEA) have stated that they hope to resume regular service into the capital next week. However, it is not yet clear if the air blockade imposed by the IDF is over with the Israeli Foreign Ministry asserting that the blockade is necessary until the peacekeeping force is deployed.

SG Special Envoys arrive in Middle East

Vijay Nambiar and Terje Roed Larsen have been dispatched on behalf of the UN Secretary-General to Israel and Lebanon to discuss the implementation of the ceasefire under Resolution 1701.

KEY DEVELOPMENTS

Lebanese Army Move South of the Litani River

In accordance with Resolution 1701, the Israeli Army commenced withdrawal from Lebanese territory, while the Lebanese Army begun deploying troops south of the Litani River for the first time since 1968. Peacekeeping Mandate Being Negotiated at UN

Some IDF positions in the South have already been passed under the control of existing UNIFIL troops. France has indicated its readiness to lead an expanded UN force in Lebanon but only with a clear mandate and sufficient resources.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

1. Following the recovery of more bodies from the rubble of destroyed homes and buildings in the past few days, the Lebanese High Relief Commission (HRC) reports that 1,181 people have been killed and 4,051 wounded in the conflict. The numbers of those injured will continue to rise as returnees fall victim to UXOs.

Returns Update

2. UNICEF estimates that some 6,000 people per hour are in the process of returning to those areas worst-hit areas in the South, despite the congested roads, severe shortages and the immense threat posed by UXOs.

3. Only four days after the cessation of hostilities, figures provided by the HRC have indicated that there remain approximately 270,510 displaced (in and outside of Lebanon); this includes an estimated 200,000 who have returned to southern suburbs of Beirut and 14,000-17,000 that have returned to areas south of the Litani River. Further, the HRC estimates that up to 95% of displaced have vacated IDP centers in Beirut and other areas.

4. Most UNRWA schools are expected to be vacated today, except for the school in Ein el-Hilweh camp. Some 70% of Palestinian refugees are said to have returned to Wavel Camp in the eastern Bekaa valley.

5. Syria: UNHCR is maintaining their 24-hour monitoring of crossing points along the Lebanese/Syrian border and are continuing to provide transport and return packages to returnees in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). WFP has pre-positioned hi-energy biscuit (HEB) stocks at border crossings and is also providing each returnee with bread and canned meat; while UNICEF is distributing UXO safety information.

Security update

6. UNIFIL reports no skirmishes between the IDF and Hezbollah over the past 24 hours.

7. Lebanese troops have crossed the Litani River for the first time since 1968. Significant numbers of troops arrived this morning in Tyre, with around 500 already deployed in the general area of Tibnin and some 800 in the general area of Marjayoun. They are in the process of establishing a Brigade HQ in Marjayoun.

8. Israel has confirmed that control of some IDF positions in the South has already been passed to UNIFIL troops, including Marjayoun and areas close to Bint Jbeil on the border. UNIFIL has established a number of checkpoints and is actively patrolling these areas to verify the withdrawal of the IDF.

UXO/Mines

9. The UN Designated Official a.i. has issued a notification to humanitarian agencies on the ground informing them of areas that have been identified as unsafe because of UXO and/or mine contamination. Humanitarian workers have been advised that these areas should remain out of bounds until such time as they can be assessed and cleared.

10. MAG reports that intense clearances efforts are ongoing in and around Nabatiye, with heavy cluster munitions contamination in every community accessed so far.

11. MAG suggests that the UXO contamination in Lebanon is on a far higher scale than that identified in Iraq after the end of the war in 2003. The NGO estimates that clearance of some villages alone may take 2-3 weeks.

HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE

Logistics

12. Access into Lebanon from Syria improves daily. As of tomorrow, humanitarian aid and staff will cross into Lebanon via the YabousûMasnaa crossing, the quickest route between Damascus and Beirut.

13. The petrol and fuel oil shortage is expected to ease in the coming days with the arrival today of two Government-contracted tankers, carrying 87,000mt of gasoline and fuel oil. A third tanker with a further 28,000mt of gasoline is expected to arrive on 18 or 19 August.

14. Two aid convoys left Beirut for Marjayoun this morning, with 11 truckloads of WFP flour, pasta and lentils, while five trucks carrying UNHCR shelter and bedding supplies proceeded to Tyre, along with UNRWA and WFP supplies for Saida.

15. Ten trucks and two fuel tankers that arrived on the Anamcara in Tyre yesterday have proceeded on to Bint Jbeil today. The Anamcara has now departed for Limassol and is hoped to return to Beirut in the next couple of days with additional humanitarian supplies.

16. The Vittoria M passenger catamaran service began today; around 40 passengers were booked on the maiden voyages between Larnaca and Beirut. The next scheduled sailing will be on 21 August. Bookings can be made by contacting saba.jamil@wfp.org.

17. Clearance work continues at Beirut International Airport with 2,000m of runway now available for the use of air traffic.

Health/Nutrition

18. To better support the large numbers of returning Lebanese, WHO is sending more than 120 trauma kits and six doctors’ kits with equipment for over 120,000 operations to the hospital in Marjayoun.

19. A UN helicopter, operating out of Nicosia, Cyprus, flew to the hospital at Naquora today, to deliver medical supplies.

20. UNRWA has reported that the morgues in some hospitals in the South are struggling to deal with the increasing number of bodies recovered from ruined buildings as clearance work continues.

21. WHO, in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), is leading a rapid needs assessment of health facilities in previously inaccessible areas near Saidi. Further assessments are being carried out in Tyre and the Bekaa area, focusing on nutrition issues (especially severe child malnutrition), immunization systems and gaps in the reconstruction and revitalization of the public health care system.

22. Concerns for the mental health of children and adults have been raised by NGOs and other health professionals. Psycho-social support will be provided by volunteers trained at three workshops. In Syria, UNICEF is supporting community advice hotlines provided by the Syrian Family Planning Association (SFPA); nine child-friendly spaces are being established in sites where displaced Lebanese are still located.

23. Syria: Syrian Ministry of Health Public Health Clinics (PHCs) close to the border with Lebanon are providing health services through some 60 mobile teams to Lebanese returnees.

Food

24. According to FAO, Lebanese traders estimate that only 20% of ‘normal’ food supplies are in the supply chain, with the situation critical in the South. As a result of the widespread contamination of UXOs, crops cannot be harvested in some areas.

25. UNIFIL distributed food and water to the villages of Ayta Ash Shab and Al Boustan today. UNIFIL has been providing medical assistance and water to a number of local villages in its area of operations. It also provided fuel to the village of Rmeich for the water supply system.

Shelter, NFIs

26. Tents and blankets are the priority needs for families returning to the South; UNHCR continues to mobilize supplies into Lebanon. Nine thousand blankets, over 200 tents, 2,000 plastic sheets and a community tent/warehouse were flown in from Amman today, while trucks, and thousands of kitchen sets and jerry cans are among goods due to be delivered by the Cap Camarat.

27. UNHCR plans to provide temporary tents (located on/close to the sites of damaged and destroyed homes) and also provide the building materials necessary for every homeless family to construct a winterized room in the coming months.

Protection

28. Public awareness materials are being distributed to TV stations to help identify signs of stress among children, and reinforce messages on anti-violence and exposing children to scenes of violence. A UNICEF Child Protection officer has been deployed to the South.

29. Child Friendly Spaces are being developed by InterSOS, in partnership with the Al Mabarrat Association, for IDP centers in Bekaa, Beirut and areas in the South.

Early Recovery

30. A high-level meeting to develop an action plan to best-respond to the oil spill off the Lebanese coast was held on 16 August in Athens. It was convened jointly by UNEP and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), with participation and support from OCHA, European Commission and other organizations. The Lebanese Minister of Environment was also in attendance. US $64 million has been promised by international donors for immediate assistance in cleaning up the oil spill.

FUNDING

Flash Appeal

31. The Flash Appeal for Lebanon/Syria is now 52% funded. Contributions stand at over US $86 million, with some US $7.5 million in pledges.

32. The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has announced the creation of a US $25 million Lebanon Relief Fund. The two-year fund will be used to respond to requests by the Red Cross Movement, the United Nations and other multilateral organizations and NGOs to address needs in Lebanon.

33. WFP has appealed for urgent funds to sustain a three-month distribution operation in Lebanon. Only half of the US $39.2 million needed has been received, although hundreds of metric tonnes of food aid and other supplies are being sent from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey.

34. As IOM evacuations of foreign migrant workers pass the 10,000 mark, the organization today started to help Lebanese IDPs to return to the South and launched an appeal for US$26.4 million to fund operations in Lebanon over the next six months. IOM’s programmes for response will also be incorporated within the revised Flash Appeal that will be launch on 31 August in Stockholm at an international donors conference on Lebanon.

35. UN agencies and partners will revise the Flash Appeal over the next week to more accurately reflect and effectively address the changing needs of the affected populations in Lebanon and Syria.

36. Full details on the international response to the Flash Appeal for Lebanon can be found on the FTS on http://www.reliefweb.int/fts.

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