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Lebanon/ Israel – ICRC Bulletin No. 14 / 2006

22-08-2006 Operational Update

Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

 
General situation
 

One week after the ceasefire, southern Lebanese are striving to cope with the aftermath of the fighting that has left a lasting mark on their towns and villages but more cruelly on their lives and loved ones.

On 18 August, hundreds of families began a process of mourning as civil defence workers and volunteers from local charities worked side by side to reopen long rows of mass graves in Tyre and transport mortal remains back to the villages. Collective burial ceremonies were held in many places, including some villages that are now little more than rows of flattened homes. Aita al Shaab, a large village on the southern border, testifies to the scale of the destruction that rained down on the area. Its ruined streets provided a stark backdrop to the silent flow of women in black veils walking silently towards the local mosque. Other villages along the border, such as Khiam, Bent Jbeil and Maroun el Ras, suffered the same fate.

The intense bombing campaign has left numerous explosive remnants of war scattered throughout the villages and the surrounding countryside. The last 48 hours before the ceasefire took hold were the worst. Damage to buildings, including churches, mosques, hospitals and museums, has reduced entire neighbourhoods and villages to heaps of rubble.

Crops, which could not be watered for weeks because of the ongoing air raids, have also suffered on a massive scale. Hundreds of heads of cattle have died of dehydration and their bodies lie rotting in the open fields. As local farmers return to their villages, they discover the extent of the damage and are faced with the major difficulty of getting access to water. The region's network of water stations, pumps and pipes will require numerous repairs before it will be serviceable again.

For the local population, it is going to be a long wait before the electricity supply is restored and water flows from the taps. For the hundreds of families who have no roof over their heads, the wait will be even longer.

 
Action by the ICRC and its partners

 

The extent of the destruction on towns and villages visited close to the border is beginning to be documented. As ICRC convoys attempt to reach every corner of southern Lebanon to deliver assistance to the population, they come across a variety of obstacles and dismal sights, some of which have now been broadcast worldwide.

In many places, a strong stench emerges from destroyed buildings where dead bodies lie buried under the rubble. Although Lebanese Red Cross volunteers removed dozens of bodies during the first days after the ceasefire, many more have yet to be uncovered.

Near the border, ICRC delegates have had to walk between rows of Israeli tanks and armed soldiers to enter small villages where a handful of elderly people survived in total isolation for many weeks.

Teams of ICRC engineers, working with Lebanese water boards, have visited pumping stations and other sites to assess damage to the water-supply network. The water boards have begun to carry out major repairs but it will be some time before the network will be serviceable again and temporary solutions must be found. The ICRC plans to carry a mobile generator by truck from village to village in order to pump water from the wells wherever possible.

Distributions of food and other relief items were held in southern Lebanon on 19, 20 and 21 August (Aita al-Shaab, Yarun, Bijada, Shamaa, Tair Harfa / Abu Shash, El Jibbain, Shihin and El Qlaile / Aamrane along the Blue Line).

From 15 to 18 August, hospitals were provided with some 20,000 litres of fuel (El Bass, Balzan Camp, Jabal Amel, Hiram and Nabatiyeh) and with sutures, dressing material, surgical supplies, medicines for chronic diseases and other drugs (Nabatiyeh, Job Jannine, Tell Shiha, Bent Jbeil). Three hundred doses of tetanus vaccine and 100 doses of anti-tetanus immunoglobulins were also delivered to the Ministry of Health for Nabatiyeh hospital.

Most of the medicines required for the treatment of chronic diseases have to be purchased on the spot as they are not included in ICRC emergency kits. A one-month supply of these medicines will be given to 200,000 patients. Equipment and consumables for blood banks will also be provided.

The ICRC is holding regular meetings with the International Federation and various National Societies, such as those of Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, to exchange information on joint projects.

 
Medical evacuations and recovery of bodies by Lebanese Red Cross

 

Between 12 July and 21 August, the Lebanese Red Cross evacuated 984 wounded people and transported another 7,684 medical cases. It also collected 398 bodies.

 
Facts and figures
 
Since the start of the crisis on 12 July, the ICRC has:
 

    

  • provided food and other basic items for over 31,000   families;

  • delivered 62,000 litres of fuel needed to run vital civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals, Lebanese Red Cross health centres and water pumps in isolated villages around Tyre, Marjayoun and Rashaya in southern Lebanon;

  • provided drugs, surgical equipment and other medical supplies (to treat the war wounded and people suffering from chronic illnesses) for ten medical facilities, including hospitals and Lebanese Red Cross health centres, mainly in southern Lebanon;

  • shipped and airlifted over 3,125 tonnes of relief supplies to the region (another 11,000 tonnes of supplies are to be delivered by mid-September).

 
  For further information, please contact:
  Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel : +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18
  Michèle Mercier, ICRC Beirut, tel : + 961 1 739 297 or + 961 35 42 839
  Roland Huguenin, ICRC Beirut, tel : + 961 3 35 62 91
  Bana Sayeh, ICRC Jerusalem, tel : + 972 2 582 88 45 or + 972 57 880 91 93