Lebanon: Dealing with crises past and present
25-09-2013 Operational Update
With untold numbers of people continuing to flee violence in Syria, the ICRC is providing medical assistance for war-wounded patients and water for communities hosting refugees. It is also offering support for the families of people who disappeared during armed conflicts in Lebanon.
More than two years of fighting in Syria has driven hundreds of thousands of people to neighbouring countries, including Lebanon, which is home to some 740,000 refugees. "The majority had to flee for their safety, leaving all their belongings and possessions behind. They arrive in Lebanon with little more than the clothes they are wearing and need basic assistance," said ICRC delegate Thomas Glue. While the ICRC has provided emergency assistance (food, blankets, kitchen sets, mattresses, etc.) for thousands of refugees, mostly those who have just arrived and have received no aid from other humanitarian organizations, it has focused its efforts on medical treatment for war-wounded patients.
The ICRC has stepped up its support for the Lebanese Red Cross emergency medical services to help ensure that people arriving from Syria with weapon-related injuries are transferred to Lebanese hospitals. It has extended its financial support and provided further medical supplies to help the Lebanese Red Cross ambulance and blood-bank services to cope with mounting demands.
The ICRC has also covered the cost of medical treatment for the most seriously wounded patients. In addition, it has monitored the care they have received in hospitals and rehabilitation centres, and provided prostheses for those who are permanently disabled. "We come across lots of cases involving arm or leg amputations, or paralysis caused by weapons. We've been providing arm and eye prostheses for the patients, most of whom are young. That's really sad," said Janet Askew, a member of the ICRC's health staff in the country.
Helping provide water
The influx of people fleeing the violence in Syria has placed water infrastructure in host communities under increased pressure. Together with local water boards, the ICRC has started taking action in different parts of the country to deal with the growing demand for water. "It is essential that sufficient quantities of clean water be available to Syrian refugees as well as the communities that host them in order to maintain proper hygiene and acceptable sanitary conditions," said the ICRC's Thomas Batardy, who oversees water projects. He explained that in Koura, north Lebanon, the organization provided a generator for a treatment plant. As a result, the water supply was increased for 15 villages with a total population of 53,000 inhabitants and 4,500 refugees. The ICRC also upgraded the water source serving the 12,000 people living in a Tripoli neighbourhood. Further action, such as upgrades to pumping stations and the development of new water sources, will be taken over the coming months, notably in the Bekaa region and in the north.
"Thirty years of waiting, of sadness, of defeat… from too much pain and hurt, from dreaming and hope…" These are the words of a woman to her missing brother. "I write to you because I believe you can read. I call you because I believe you can hear. I wave to you because I believe you can see." These are the words of a mother to her missing son. The sufferings of the families of people who vanished, often decades ago during the 1975-1990 civil war, remain deeply painful. On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, 30 August, some 100 writings were published by the ICRC in a booklet entitled "I told myself I will write to you."
As part of its work for families of missing persons, the ICRC has continued to collect detailed information about those who have vanished, information that is essential for efforts to determine what happened to them. The ICRC will also collect biological reference samples of families so that DNA profiling can be used to identify human remains. In addition, it strives to raise awareness among the public of this longstanding and seemingly intractable humanitarian problem, and remind the authorities of their obligation under international humanitarian law to clarify the fate of all persons still unaccounted for.
In recent months the ICRC has visited detainees in various places of detention, as it has done in Lebanon since 2007, when it signed an agreement with the Lebanese authorities under which ICRC delegates are allowed to visit prisons and interrogation centres of the interior and defence ministries. The purpose of the visits is to monitor the conditions in which the detainees are held, the treatment they receive and respect for basic legal safeguards.
From January to August 2013 the ICRC:
● conducted interviews with the families of 403 missing persons as part of its effort to gather detailed information about missing people;
● visited 5,760 detainees in 24 places of detention across Lebanon;
● repatriated, in its capacity as a neutral intermediary, four civilians and the bodies of four Lebanese nationals from Israel and one Israeli citizen from Lebanon;
● completed two projects to improve water availability in Koura, north Lebanon, and Tripoli;
● distributed food and other emergency items to a total of 26,664 refugees from Syria, including 13,865 Palestinians;
● covered the cost of treatment for 703 Syrian refugees with weapon-related injuries and fitted 14 Syrian war-wounded patients with prostheses;
● trained 132 hospital staff to deal with mass casualties and 30 surgeons in the orthopaedic management of war wounds;
● provided 19 hospitals, three ambulance services and four first-aid posts with medical supplies for the treatment of over 2,200 patients;
● provided 2,735 blood units for wounded Syrian patients.
The ICRC, founded 150 years ago, has been working in Lebanon since 1967 to relieve the humanitarian consequences of armed conflict and other violence.