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UN Plans Emergency Relief Appeal for Lebanon


A senior United Nations official says in the coming days the United Nations will launch a flash appeal for tens of thousands of war victims in Lebanon. He says the focus will be on getting water supplies, sanitation equipment and emergency medical treatment to internally displaced people.

The United Nations is pulling all non-essential staff out of Lebanon. But the U.N.'s top humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, says relief workers will remain. He says his agency is sending more people to Damascus, Syria on Wednesday. From there, he says, they will continue on by road to the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

He says it is very difficult to do an assessment of needs in Lebanon because of the dangers. But he hopes this will be possible in the coming days. He says it is critical that an emergency appeal be launched as quickly as possible, given the scale of destruction.

"It is heartbreaking to see all that hard work ... to rebuild Lebanon seems now to be lost because of the destruction," he said. "So, again my appeal is stop it. Stop. And, the appeal goes to Hezbollah as it goes to the Israeli Defense Forces. We need a cease fire. We need a stop to this. The rain of missiles into Israel has to stop. The bombing of infrastructure in Lebanon has to stop."

Egeland says there is not, as yet, an acute lack of food. The most pressing issue now is the protection of civilians. He is appealing to both Israel and Hezbollah to allow ambulances and convoys with necessary relief supplies to travel safely in Lebanon.

But while the situation in Lebanon is critical, Egeland says he is afraid the focus on emergency needs there will take attention away from other critical emergencies.

The United Nations has just conducted a mid-year review of humanitarian needs around the world. Six months ago, the United Nations appealed for nearly five billion dollars to address the urgent needs of 30 million people in 31 countries. Only 36 percent of that money has been received.

Egeland says most of the emergencies are in Africa and most remain under-funded.

"With the present acute crisis in Lebanon, it has not made things better in Ivory Coast or in Congo or in Sudan…In the Horn of Africa because of the drought, we launched an appeal which is absolutely vital for nomads, pastoralists - some of the poorest of the poor that have been drought-stricken," he said. "We only have got 15 percent of the appeal funded. We have only a quarter of what we need for Sudan. And, in southern Sudan, we have 80 percent of our programs unfunded."

Egeland says it is a shame to see that rich countries are unwilling to support southern Sudan's hard-won peace.

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