The United Nations is appealing for $150 million to provide humanitarian aid in and around southern Lebanon. Officials are warning that conditions in the conflict zone are rapidly becoming overwhelming.
U.N. emergency aid chief Jan Egeland launched the flash appeal in Beirut, where he is evaluating the scope of the humanitarian crisis. He is slated to visit Israel Tuesday, where he will take a look at conditions in the Gaza Strip.
Egeland's deputy, Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Margareta Wahlstrom, told reporters in New York that infrastructure damage in southern Lebanon has complicated access to many areas. She says fuel prices have skyrocketed, and hundreds of thousands of people will soon be without essential supplies.
"The supplies that will be first [in] short supply is fuel, to keep power stations going," she said. "That's already a shortage, because of the large damage that has been made to the infrastructure that holds fuel. And incredible price hikes, 600 percent increase on prices of fuel. Secondly, drugs for emergency for hospitals, and thirdly, food supplies partly also because of incredible price increase."
Wahlstrom charged that all factions involved in the fighting in Lebanon are violating laws on the protection of civilians.
"It's clear that all parties to this conflict are in violation of international humanitarian law by not taking due care to prevent civilians from being injured and being caught in the middle of this conflict," she noted.
She said one of the biggest humanitarian challenges in the next few days will be how to provide shelter for the hundreds of thousands who are fleeing their homes to escape the hostilities.
"I think all these issues will have to be tested now, because, right now, not the security of the people affected nor the security of relief workers is assured," continued Wahlstrom.
U.N. officials say they are urgently seeking assurances of safe passage for humanitarian aid workers in the region.
The United States responded immediately to the U.N. appeal. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch said Washington would contribute $30 million, including medical kits for 100,000 people, and 20,000 blankets.
Welch was quoted in Tel Aviv Monday as saying Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would address humanitarian conditions during talks with Israeli officials.