United Nations aid agencies are alarmed at the consequences for their humanitarian operations in Lebanon following the overnight bombings on the road between Tripoli and Beirut. It is a major route for transporting relief supplies to the victims of the conflict.
The United Nations reports overnight bombing of the highway north from Beirut to the Syrian border has cut the road in at least three places and destroyed critical bridges. As a consequence, U.N. aid agencies have had to cancel the delivery of vital humanitarian assistance along this main supply route.
The World Food Program says it has been forced to cancel convoys that were supposed to have transported relief supplies from Syria to Lebanon on Friday. Emergency relief workers that were set to travel to Beirut from Syria also had to abort their plans.
WFP spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume, says the agency is looking for alternative ways to bring in urgently needed food, water, medicine and other supplies. She says WFP will be exploring the possibility of using secondary roads.
"It would be a problem because those secondary roads probably would not be able to take huge trucks, so we would probably have to use smaller trucks," she said. "That would take more time. But, we are also looking at other ways to bring food inside the country…It is obvious that we need to look for other ways to bring relief inside Lebanon, not only by land, but it has to be by sea, it has to be by air."
The International Organization for Migration had planned to drive some 700 Philippine and Sri Lankan migrants along the coastal highway to Syria, but that trip too has been canceled. Spokeswoman, Jemini Pandya, says there is no viable land route that can be used to transport stranded migrants out of Lebanon for the foreseeable future.
"It is not safe to use the other secondary routes that are available even if they have not been bombed," she said. "So, it means essentially that we have to go for the sea option which is going to be much more difficult logistically. We are trying to find out how best to do it and how quickly we can do this because it is important with the escalation of the crisis in Lebanon that we get people out as soon as possible."
The World Health Organization says it was planning to send a convoy of medicine for 13,000 people from Syria to Lebanon on Saturday. But, that convoy now probably will not be able to go ahead because of the damage inflicted on the main route.
The U.N. refugee agency says it is awaiting further information on how the bombings on the road between Tripoli and Beirut will affect its convoys. It notes the majority of its stocks are in Syria and Jordan and the road has been vital for bringing urgently needed supplies from Syria into Lebanon.