UNHCR emergency team starts deploying to Lebanon crisis
GENEVA, July 20 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency started deploying its initial 11-strong emergency team to the Lebanon crisis Thursday, spearheading the agency's operation to help tens of thousands of displaced people inside Lebanon and refugees flowing out of the country. The team, flying in from different parts of the world, will first group in the Syrian capital, Damascus.
The United Nations estimates some 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Lebanon with more than 100,000 crossing the border into Syria to find safety. UNHCR has been monitoring the border at various points. Most of those arriving in Syria are Syrian nationals who had been working temporarily in Lebanon, as well as Lebanese with family links in Syria. Some 700 families in need of shelter are being accommodated by the Syrian Red Crescent.
UNHCR in Beirut is assisting refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people, helping them get access to public shelters and assistance. On Wednesday, the agency helped 41 refugees and asylum seekers travel north to Tripoli where they were given shelter and food in a school hosting the displaced.
The emergency team deploying Thursday will reinforce the existing UNHCR staff of some two dozen people in Lebanon. UNHCR now has a presence in three mountain areas where displaced persons have sought refuge, as well as in beleaguered Sidon in the south. The staff are assessing, where possible, the needs of the displaced, identifying shelters and establishing relationships with non-governmental organisations.
The first task of the emergency team, once they arrive in Lebanon, will be identifying the needs of the displaced and bringing in necessary relief items from UNHCR's stockpiles of supplies in Jordan and Syria.
The UN refugee agency will be appealing for funds for an initial period of three months, in a joint UN Flash Appeal for the Lebanon crisis, expected to the launched early next week.
UNHCR is working closely with other UN agencies in Lebanon in coordination with the newly established High Relief Committee of the Lebanese government. A first meeting of this Committee and all UN humanitarian agencies was held Wednesday night at the Lebanese Parliament.