UN humanitarian agencies prepare for health impact of crisis in Lebanon

The aftermath of attacks by Israel on Lebanon, 16 July 2006. (Peter Speetjens/IRIN)

With access to medical care, water, sanitation and other heath necessities in Lebanon severely limited by Israeli attacks, United Nations humanitarian agencies have stepped up preparations for a coordinated, regional response to the crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

“Access to health care for injured and patients with chronic conditions is a major concern,” according to WHO’s first situation report from the country since Israel’s reaction to a 12 July cross-border Hizbollah attack.

In addition, the agency said that impaired power supplies have limited water and sanitation services, and that food, shelter and health services must be ensured for the displaced population.

As assessments are conducted in all these areas, WHO said it is assisting local health services in Lebanon, to ensure continued access, while the health programme of the UN Works and Relief Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) plans to support them with cars, supplies and other logistical infrastructure.

Initial steps have also been taken to step up regional interagency response involving WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and other agencies.

In the event they are needed, UNICEF has prepared emergency health kits, family hygiene kits and water tanks, water purification material, generators and fuel to be sent to Lebanon, while WFP has made available 25,000 tons of biscuits for the displaced population, WHO said.

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