News Middle East crisis

Humanitarian corridors are critical for aid

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 27 July 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:217
  1. John Zarocostas
  1. Geneva

    Specialist United Nations agencies are mounting a massive relief operation to reach more than 700 000 Lebanese civilians displaced by the escalating conflict and in need of urgent help. Half of the displaced people are children.

    An emergency appeal launched on 24 July in Beirut by the UN's top humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, is seeking $149m (£80m; €120m) from donors. The sum includes $32.4m to serve the health needs of 800 000 people over the next three months, $15m for nutrition, and $14m for water and sanitation.

    A World Health Organization official said that the entire health infrastructure in the south of Lebanon is destroyed but noted that hospitals in the rest of the country were functioning.

    Drugs for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease were running out, and WHO, along with Lebanese health authorities, had established a list of what was needed and would try to buy them locally or in neighbouring countries.

    But as the BMJ was going to press on Tuesday UN relief was still being stymied by the ongoing air, sea, and land blockade that is preventing even basic supplies from entering the country—although some shipments have managed to come in by sea.

    “We have 500 tonnes of aid sitting on the Syrian-Lebanese border, and we can't get it in by road. We don't have safety guarantees, and we need these from all sides,” said a spokesman for the UN Refugee Agency, Ron Redmond.

    The issue is being raised “every single day,” he said. “It's a very frustrating thing for us.”

    The crisis was sparked by Hizbollah raids on Israel on 12 July, in which two Israeli soldiers were captured, and by Hizbollah rocket fire into Israel. The Israeli government responded by bombing Hizbollah positions in southern Lebanon, attacking Beirut airport, and launching an air and sea blockade on Lebanon.


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