UNHCR seeks aid for Lebanon at donors conference in Sweden
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 31 (UNHCR) - As daily UN refugee agency convoys carry humanitarian aid to the battered villages of south Lebanon, UNHCR has joined other United Nations organisations in calling for international support for Lebanon at a major donors conference in Stockholm.
"The clear message of this conference is about showing solidarity with the government of Lebanon," said Stephane Jaquemet, the UNHCR representative in Lebanon, who was in the UNHCR delegation to the one-day conference in Sweden. "The government is in the driving seat."
UNHCR, which is the lead UN organization for providing emergency shelter following the war in the rural areas of Lebanon, is initially providing vital aid such as tents, mattresses and blankets. It later plans to assist in the rebuilding of destroyed houses by providing tool kits to facilitate repairs and, for the most vulnerable, 1,000 basic transitional houses that can later be expanded.
The agency has asked for US$18.85 million for the initial emergency phase, which will last until October 24, and projects the cost of its share of the subsequent early recovery phase at US$28.4 million.
The Stockholm conference, organised by the Swedish government and including some 60 governments and organisations, hopes to raise $500 million. It aims to meet Lebanon's short-term needs before working on longer-term funds. Lebanese officials have estimated that five weeks of Israeli attacks caused some US$3.6 billion in damage to the country's infrastructure.
"For UNHCR, we hope that this conference will give us the tools to provide the shelter that so many people in Lebanon need," said Jaquemet, noting that tens of thousands of people have no habitable homes.
UNHCR's figures, assembled from various sources, show that some 60,000 housing units in Lebanon were damaged or destroyed in the war. Of those, 15,000 were completely destroyed and another 15,000 sustained major damage. There was also vast damage to infrastructure, which will be the focus of organisations other than UNHCR.
UNHCR, which immediately mobilised an emergency team to reinforce its staff already in Lebanon, is assisting both the Lebanese population who returned home after fleeing the fighting and those who remain displaced because their houses were destroyed or they fear fresh fighting.
UNHCR field teams have been visiting displaced Lebanese who remain outside their home areas to check on their needs, distributing emergency items such as tents and blankets both to the displaced and to the families who have generously provided them with accommodation. Some of these Lebanese are still in Syria.
The greatest part of UNHCR assistance is going to the overwhelming majority of the million Lebanese who fled the war and have now returned to their home areas - including those who are sheltering with friends and relatives near their destroyed houses.
By last Tuesday, UNHCR's own trucks and others it has rented had delivered 27,000 blankets, 5,756 mattresses, 2,798 tents, 6,122 hurricane lamps, 2,600 cooking stoves, 13,455 diapers, 2,639 kitchen sets, 11,162 jerry cans, 6,620 bars of soap, 7,735 plastic sheets and other items. Forty villages had been supplied and another 20 were scheduled for deliveries in the following week.
In addition, UNHCR has signed an agreement with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) for the rapid clearing of the unexploded ordnance scattered over agricultural land and in villages. UNHCR and UNMAS have been conducting awareness training since the end of hostilities on August 14 triggered the rush of returnees.
In the next phase of the assistance, UNHCR intends to provide support to remaining displaced people in 30 centres, give support packages to 8,300 host families and provide legal and protection assistance such as establishing a returnee monitoring network.
In addition, UNHCR is providing small home repair kits - with tools and some building materials like plastic sheeting and plywood - to 7,500 families who need limited assistance to repair their houses. A more substantial repair kit - which will include cement, steel, rope and pulleys, levels and other items - will be given to 5,000 families who lost their homes and will need to construct a new house.