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UN Official: Lebanon Recovery Moving Ahead Quickly


A senior United Nations official says recovery work in Lebanon is moving ahead quickly, but is being hampered by Israel's sea and air blockade.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Lebanon, David Shearer, says a fundraising conference in Stockholm this week, where donors pledged nearly $1 billion for Lebanon, has provided an important moral boost for the government as it emerges from the war.

He says it is extraordinary to see the speed with which the Lebanese people and the government have taken charge of their own recovery. Although much remains to be done, he says the emergency phase of the humanitarian operation is winding down.

"We are very encouraged to see that the government authorities in the south believe that, in the next couple of weeks, they should be able to have electricity supplied to many of the areas of the south, many of the villages in the south," said Mr. Shearer. "And some of the water mains also in the next two or three weeks for large amounts of the south will be reconnected."

Shearer says U.N. and private aid agencies are working with the government to provide water, diesel for generators to pump water, medical supplies and temporary shelter for tens of thousands of Lebanese, who still are not able to go back to the homes they fled. He says most food needs have been met.

But, he says Lebanon is working under an enormous handicap. He says Lebanon has rebuilt itself many times in the past, but never under the imposition of a blockade.

"Humanitarian assistance can assist people, but it is ultimately a band-aid, a temporary band-aid, and that the real recovery can only take place when that blockade is lifted," he added. "The Lebanese are business people and traders and that needs to happen before this country can revitalize itself."

The U.N. official cites unexploded munitions as the second major challenge facing Lebanon. During the war, he says Lebanon was bombarded by some 9,000 rounds of various types of munitions. He estimates about 10 percent have not exploded and are a potential threat.

The most dangerous are clusters bombs. The U.N. Mine Center has discovered over 400 strike areas where cluster bombs were used. Shearer says around 100,000 bomblets are unexploded in the countryside and towns.

"These bomblets are extremely dangerous, because they are very unstable," he explained. "They can be set off merely by vibrations, so, they are extremely dangerous. And, currently, one person per day is being killed and three people per day are being injured."

The United Nations and non-governmental groups are working with the Lebanese Army and the National De-Mining Office to clear unexploded bomblets and raise awareness about the danger they pose.

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