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After bombing, aid agencies warn of dwindling basics in Lebanon


Heavy bombardments that have destroyed bridges and parts of the main road between Syria and Lebanon have put enormous pressure on aid agencies and churches trying to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of internally-displaced people.

"With the isolation of Beirut, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get what we need," said Shad Hajj Nassif, emergency coordinator of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) working with the global alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) International. Still, Nassif noted, "The goods we have are being distributed quickly."

The basement of a building of a faculty of theology has been turned into a provisional relief warehouse, where people displaced by the Israeli action are volunteering, helping organize the emergency parcels that contain food and hygiene items.

Many who fled the bombardment of their villages and the southern suburbs of Beirut have lost all their belongings, and have been forced to rely on relief efforts by local and international relief organisations, including the churches.

"Some people cry when they get their emergency rations," a local volunteer in one of the MECC-supported centres said.

Dwindling supplies of fuel, other basics, and the lack of a safe corridor to bring in aid are causing deep concern. Because of the deterioration in security, truck drivers in Lebanon are afraid they may be a target for the Israeli forces when they move on the roads. The MECC and ACT have been using smaller trucks when distributing aid.

"It means that we have to go back and forth three or four times to distribute aid," said Nassif.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned there is only seven to eight days’ worth of fuel left in Lebanon.

"If fuel runs out this will have a major effect on the displaced Lebanese population," said Dominic Nutt, an emergencies specialist with British agency Christian Aid, a member of ACT.

"Many are living in cramped conditions, in schools and other public buildings and rely on clean water which is brought in daily by trucks," said Nutt.

Christian Aid has warned that displaced Lebanese civilians returning home when a cease-fire is agreed would have to be on their guard against unexploded cluster bombs and other munitions fired by Israeli forces. It said there could be more than 7000 unexploded pieces of ordnance across the conflict zone. 

[This article has been edited from reports distributed by ACT International www.act-intl.org (c) Ecumenical News International]