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Relief and Reconstruction Efforts in Lebanon Will be Costly


The fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon has left hundreds dead and billions of dollars of damage throughout Lebanon. Nations around the world are contributing troops and money to Lebanon's reconstruction -- a monumental effort that could take years to complete.

The cleanup effort continues in southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah guerrillas fought Israeli troops for more than a month. It is a first step -- one of many first steps the country must take in repairing its citizens' shattered lives and homes.

Patrice Karam of the U.S. Institute of Peace says, "The priority, of course, will be short-term relief."

Short-term relief means providing such essentials as food, medicine, drinkable water and electricity.

The Lebanese government estimates the price tag for just the relief work will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Lebanon is a country already deep in debt from its last war.

"Lebanon's public debt -- mostly accrued after the '75-'90 civil war -- is worth almost twice the country's G.D.P. [gross domestic product]. One of the heftiest in the world," says Karam.

After the recent fighting ended, Israel blockaded Lebanon's airports and seaports, permitting only commercial flights and medical and food shipments into the country. Israel has announced it will lift the blockade.

Jamal Saghir is Director of Energy and Water at the World Bank. He says the blockade -- combined with damage to the country's agriculture and industry -- has already proven costly. "Every day, the economy in these sectors [agriculture and industry] is losing $30 million because they can't export, they cannot produce anymore."

International donors pledged almost a billion dollars to assist the Lebanese government during a conference in Sweden last month. The United States contributed $230 million.

William Garvelink, of the U.S. Agency for International Development, says the U.S. also will provide individual assistance to those whose homes need only limited repair. "People can go about and do that and submit a voucher to our N.G.O.'s [non-governmental organizations], and the N.G.O. will look at the repairs done and pay the voucher."

Relief and repair efforts continue on both small and large scales. It's a daunting task, but as Jamal Saghir of the World Bank observed, "It's a process, and we must respect the process. It will take its time."

Multinational troops comprising the U.N. peacekeeping force have begun to arrive in Lebanon to ensure the "process" can continue peacefully.

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