Lebanon is making speedy progress towards recovery after the destructive conflict between Israel and Hizbollah this summer and humanitarian agencies are preparing to close down or transfer their activities to relevant Government authorities or development agencies, the United Nations officials reported today.
As early as tomorrow the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) plans to hand over of the role of coordinating international activities in southern Lebanon to the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
The official end of humanitarian operations is scheduled for 24 October, according to OCHA’s latest update.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP), which has taken the logistics lead in arranging cargo movements, will wind up those operations by 15 October. Since commercial traffic has resumed, WFP will support other agencies’ transport needs and those of non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) through commercial means.
By the same date, it intends to complete its food distribution programme and is helping the Ministry of Social Affairs to establish a national food security and capacity-building strategy in its place.
On the water and sanitation front, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has agreed to serve as a clearing house for requests and information to relieve pressure on the Lebanese water authorities, while distributions of bottled water will be phased out in the coming weeks.
The transport of water to more than 100 villages in southern Lebanon will remain a priority for six to eight weeks. The water recovery process has been speeded by a ready supply of generators and the fact that electric power is coming back on line more quickly than anticipated.
Coordination of de-mining activities will continue through the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC). To date, some 592 cluster bomb strike locations have been identified, and 40,000 cluster sub-munitions and other pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) have been cleared out of a possible total of 1 million. Fourteen people were killed and 90 injured from all types of unexploded ordnance in Lebanon from 14 August until 19 September.
Some 200,000 people remain displaced due to the level of destruction and contamination by cluster sub-munitions and other UXO in their hometowns. Ten UN Environment Programme (UNEP) experts are due to arrive on Saturday to look at key environmental hazards including waste rubble, medical and industrial waste, coastal marine pollution, asbestos, and ground water contamination.
A three-member delegation of the UN Human Rights Council is already in Lebanon and will remain there until 7 October to investigate what OCHA called “the systematic targeting and killing of civilians by Israel in Lebanon” as well as to examine the weapons used by Israel and their conformity with international law.
The team will meet with Government officials, the diplomatic community and representatives of civil society and will travel to areas affected by the recent conflict to collect evidence and witness accounts of the military operations.