GENEVA, Switzerland - July 28 - With no end in sight for the hostilities in Lebanon and civilian casualties rising daily, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC is appealing today for 100 million Swiss Francs to sharply step up the humanitarian work it is carrying out for the victims of the armed conflict together with its partner the Lebanese Red Cross.
In the south of the country, and particularly the villages along the border with Israel, the effects of military operations are rapidly making life unbearably dangerous for the remaining civilians trapped by the fighting. In addition, resources and access to water and basic services are very limited. Medical evacuations and aid operations are fraught with difficulty and cannot meet the needs.
"In southern Lebanon, the number one issue today is ensuring the safety of civilians and securing safe access for those engaged in medical and other humanitarian activities," said Pierre Krähenbühl, the ICRC's director of operations. "At the same time, the damage to civilian infrastructure and the country's economy, coupled with the large-scale displacement of civilians, requires an emergency response that is likely to extend into next year."
To cope with the crisis, the ICRC has expanded its staff in Beirut, Tyre and Marjayoun and has been travelling to villages close to the border to deliver aid and facilitate medical evacuations together with the Lebanese Red Cross. However, some convoys have been turned back by intense fighting in the area.
Across Lebanon, the funds requested will serve to expand health programmes and support medical facilities serving 650,000 people, as well as to help treat up to 5,000 war-wounded. The ICRC will increase its deliveries of food and other essential relief items for at least 200,000 residents and displaced people for whom local organizations and host families are currently the main source of aid. Access to clean water will be improved for more than 1,200,000 people.
"The Lebanese Red Cross is working hard throughout Lebanon and its staff and volunteers are risking their lives daily to help the victims," said Balthasar Staehelin, the ICRC's delegate-general for the Middle East and North Africa. "We are therefore providing the Society with all the support it requires to cover its needs and strengthen its capacities."
The ICRC is also concerned about the plight of civilians in the north of Israel, where a number of people have been killed or injured by rocket attacks. The organization is assisting the Magen David Adom, which runs ambulance and emergency services in the country.
An estimated 150,000 people have crossed from Lebanon into Syria, where the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has been working relentlessly to furnish aid and shelter and to restore family links for those in need. Together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the ICRC is providing the Society with the necessary support.
The ICRC once again urges the parties to the conflict to fully respect international humanitarian law – in particular to spare civilians – and to respect, protect and facilitate the work of those engaged in medical and other humanitarian activities.
* * *
For previous ICRC statements on international humanitarian law, please consult:
13 July 2006 – Press Release No. 06/78: Israel and Lebanon: ICRC gravely concerned about humanitarian situation in Gaza
19 July 2006 -– Press Release No. 06/79: As civilians bear the brunt of the armed conflict, the ICRC steps up its humanitarian action in Lebanon
19 July 2006 – Press briefing: Middle East: press briefing with Pierre Krähenbühl, ICRC director of operations