Saturday, July 22, 2006

UN emergency chief to travel to Lebanon as situation worsens; urges access for aid


21 July 2006 – Painting a grim picture of the worsening humanitarian situation in the Middle East, the top United Nations emergency relief coordinator announced he will fly to Lebanon today, repeated calls for a cessation of hostilities and again urged all sides to allow access for urgent relief supplies to get through.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, who spoke to the Security Council, also said he would launch a flash appeal for Lebanon on Monday to fund urgent assistance for the next three months and he called on international donors to give generously.

“The war, the terror, the attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure has to stop – in Lebanon, in northern Israel as it has to stop in Gaza. Too many children, women, elderly and other civilians have already lost their lives or are struggling to survive from their wounds,” he said.

“The Lebanese Government has requested international humanitarian assistance and has appealed for medical supplies, material for shelter and construction, as well as tents, blankets and generators and fire-fighting equipment.”

He said had formally requested that the Government of Israel guarantee of safe passage routes, or ‘humanitarian corridors,’ into and out of Lebanon.

Mr. Egeland said that although figures for the number of people affected by the conflict in Lebanon are only “indicative,” that current planning suggests there are more than half a million, including the internally displaced and those unable to relocate, and that more than a third of the total are children.

“I and my colleagues have consistently called upon all parties in the conflict to live up to their obligations under international humanitarian law and grant access to humanitarian workers and relief items to those most affected by the hostilities.”

After Lebanon, Mr. Egeland said he plans to visit Jerusalem for consultations with the Israeli authorities and also hopes to visit Gaza where he told the Council the situation remains as “critical as ever.”

Adding to growing international calls for an end to hostilities in Lebanon and for the opening of a humanitarian corridor, has also been the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, as well as the head of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) who also highlighted the plight of women in the hostilities.

“Killing and maiming, the denial of humanitarian access for children as well as attacks on schools and hospitals are considered grave violations of children’s rights by the Security Council,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, expressing deep concern for the situation in Lebanon, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.