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Lebanon Crisis: relief convoy awaiting final security clearance at the Syria-Lebanon border

Briefing notes

Lebanon Crisis: relief convoy awaiting final security clearance at the Syria-Lebanon border

8 August 2006

A UNHCR humanitarian relief convoy that we hoped would arrive in Beirut from Syria on Monday was still at the Syria-Lebanon border this morning, awaiting final security clearance to proceed. This would be our first convoy since the road from the Al Aarida border crossing to Beirut was bombed last Thursday making access extremely difficult. It is important the convoy gets through as our warehouse supplies in Beirut are dwindling to alarming levels.

The six trucks are loaded with UNHCR emergency supplies of blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets and tents.

We are also hoping for final clearance for a UNHCR relief flight from Amman, Jordan later today, followed by a second C-130 flight from Jordan, possibly tomorrow. The planes will bring in 3,600 mattresses and 9,000 blankets which are badly needed to make the lives of tens of thousands of displaced people living in communal shelters more comfortable.

A further truck convoy, carrying 12,995 blankets, 100 light tents, 1,840 kitchen sets and 1,308 mattresses, will be sent from Syria as soon as there is clearance to proceed along the road inside Lebanon.

However, the delay in getting supplies to Beirut - and the need for an expensive airlift - underlines the difficulty in supplying the huge number of Lebanese displaced by the war. The road east from Beirut to Syria was destroyed early in the fighting and the road from the north that we are now using was blocked by bombing last Thursday. The convoy with UNHCR material currently on its way to Beirut is the fifth since the fighting started.

Meanwhile, our existing stocks of emergency aid inside Lebanon have been largely exhausted. We have teams assessing the needs of hundreds of thousands of displaced inside Lebanon but need to be able to get supplies in from outside faster in order to meet those needs. There are 100,000 displaced inside Beirut alone. Getting relief to those in more isolated areas is even more difficult because of the damage to roads and prevailing insecurity.

In Syria, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Judy Cheng-Hopkins is scheduled to arrive today in Damascus on a three- day visit. During her stay in she will meet with the senior government officials, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and UN agencies. She will make a field visit to Homs and to the border.