UNHCR tries to resume aid shipments to Lebanon from Syria
BEIRUT, Lebanon, August 7 (UNHCR) - After days of waiting to enter Lebanon following the bombing of the main road south from Syria, the UNHCR said it hoped that six trucks would cross the border on Monday and proceed to Beirut with relief supplies in a United Nations convoy.
The six trucks are among eight that were waiting to proceed, carrying a total of 12,305 blankets, 1,308 mattresses, 1,890 kitchen sets and 100 tents. They were expected to finish the transfer of goods to six trucks on the Lebanese side of the border late on Monday and arrive in Beirut sometime on Tuesday.
Bomb damage to the roads - including destroyed bridges - makes the journey slow and hazardous, but the supplies are badly needed because most existing UNHCR stocks in Lebanon have already been distributed. The road from Beirut east to Damascus was bombed early in the current conflict and the road north to the Al Aarida border crossing to Syria was bombed last Thursday.
UNHCR is also hoping that a planeload of supplies from its stockpiles in Jordan will arrive on Tuesday. A second flight from Amman is to follow. The C-130, the only type of aircraft able to land on the damaged runways at Beirut airport, will carry 3,600 mattresses and 9,000 blankets.
The government of Lebanon now estimates there are 930,000 displaced people inside Lebanon and Syria reports that it is sheltering a further 180,000 Lebanese. UNHCR is assisting in both countries, trying to fill gaps in the assistance provided by local authorities.
The danger of getting aid to those in the hardest hit areas, such as southern Lebanon, was underlined on Sunday when a United Nations convoy moved from Beirut to Tyre carrying supplies on behalf of UNHCR and other agencies.
On the road to Tyre, a car travelling only 30 metres behind the 15-truck convoy was destroyed by Israeli fire, killing the two passengers. A similar attack on a car the same distance in front of the convoy killed another person on the way back.
UNHCR teams operating in Beirut, which is hosting 100,000 displaced, have identified the need in some of the makeshift shelters for more water, sheets, blankets and sanitary essentials. In addition, a UNHCR team on Monday was visiting the Aley valley, where tens of thousands of displaced were identified early in the conflict. Another UNHCR team was heading into the mountainous Metn and Kesrouane area further north to assess the needs.
In Syria, UNHCR is liaising with the Ministry of Social Affairs, which is caring for refugees in community centres holding some 67,000 Lebanese, and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, which is helping the remainder of refugees who are staying with host families.
UNHCR is also discussing possible assistance with authorities in the city of Homs, north of Damascus, where some 20,000 Lebanese refugees have arrived.
Because of the continuing difficulty in delivering aid by air or road, the United Nations is trying to shift toward moving aid by sea from Cyprus to Beirut and the northern port of Tripoli. The Lebanese government has approved UNHCR's use of a large warehouse in the port area of Beirut.
By Astrid van Genderen Stort in Beirut, Lebanon