Princess Haya and WFP chief call for more to be done for suffering Lebanese

Published on 08 April 2006

Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, WFP Goodwill Ambassador, today joined James Morris, WFP Executive Director, on a one-day visit to Lebanese refugees in Syria.

Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, WFP Goodwill Ambassador, today joined James Morris, WFP Executive Director, on a one-day visit to Lebanese refugees in Syria. Together they urged increased assistance in alleviating the suffering on both sides of the border.

Peace must be restored so that we can help these survivors return home to rebuild their lives

James Morris, WFP Executive Director

“Politicians must stand up together to put an end to this senseless conflict by making humanity the priority,” said Princess Haya.

“This would be by allowing food to reach the source of the problem without interference, and by allowing us to distribute the food to make our children’s lives bearable and to give them some of that hope they desperately need right now."

Suffering

"With every day that the fighting continues, we are going to see more misery and more displaced people fleeing across the border. We have to do everything we can to ease their suffering and to ensure that hunger does not make their plight even worse," said Morris, who arrived late last night on his first official visit to Syria.

Morris said that overnight bombing of the highway north from Beirut to the Syrian border had cut the road in at least three places, effectively severing a vital humanitarian lifeline between Lebanon and the outside world.

As a result, today WFP has postponed its planned supply convoy from the humanitarian hub in Arida, Syria.

Vital supply route

“The destruction of this vital supply route has serious repercussions for the overall relief effort in Lebanon,” Morris said.

WFP-managed convoys have been making regular deliveries of humanitarian staff and cargo over the border from Arida, which was one of the few safe crossing points still open to traffic between the two countries. Over the past few days, thousands of refugees have been flooding over the border to escape the fighting.

Concern

Morris expressed concern that so far, WFP had only been able to reach less than half the people in southern Lebanon requiring food assistance.

Today, only one of the two planned convoys managed to proceed (to Jezzine) due to overnight bombardment in the suburbs of South Beirut. The convoy planned for Tyre and Rashidiyeh did not go ahead as the truck drivers were unable to leave their apartments.

WFP flights

The hampering of road deliveries makes the start of WFP flights today directly into Beirut even more important.

This morning, 10 tons of WFP high energy biscuits and 2 tons of other essential supplies departed from the UN Humanitarian Depot in Brindisi, Italy aboard a C-130 Hercules aircraft, made possible by the generous offer from the Government of Portugal.

The aircraft is expected to conduct four rotations between Friday and Monday, delivering a total of 42 metric tons of WFP high-energy biscuits, four tons of medical supplies for the World Health Organisation as well as other urgently-needed relief supplies.

“We are grateful to the Syrian and Portuguese governments in lending their support to our humanitarian operation. It is challenging work demanding our combined efforts,” said Morris.

Convoys

Since starting its convoys last week (26 July), WFP has delivered a total of 280 metric tons of food into the south, enough for 80,000 people for one week.

WFP convoys carrying food and other relief items on behalf of WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNRWA and several NGOs, have been severely hampered by security and logistical problems, including damaged roads, forcing long detours over difficult terrain, as well as mechanical breakdowns.

Refugees in Syria

In Syria, WFP started on Monday (31 July) to distribute food aid to nearly 7,000 Lebanese people who have taken refuge in the capital, Damascus, over recent weeks. The agency will distribute three tons of bread each day to the beneficiaries who are living in schools or abandoned public buildings.

Current indications suggest the number of refugees needing assistance in Damascus could rise to 20,000 people in the coming days. Distributions of food aid are due to begin shortly in central and northern Syria.

Operations

WFP operations within the UN flash appeal have been budgeted at a total US$48 million, including logistical support and an emergency operation to provide food aid, valued at US$8.9 million, to respond to the immediate food needs of displaced Lebanese.

WFP is prioritising assistance to 95,000 displaced people seeking shelter in schools and public institutions in Beirut, 165,000 people in the heaviest-hit areas in southern Lebanon and 50,000 of the approximately 140,000 people in Syria who have fled the conflict. With the situation deteriorating by the day, WFP plans to expand its assistance in both Syria and Lebanon.

Implore

“I implore the international community to put a stop to the violence and cease the rhetoric. Dialogue and action is what is required now to make this region a better place for the adults of tomorrow, who have so much to give and to offer the world in return,” stressed Princess Haya.

“If we turn our backs on them, we will see our world plummeting into a vicious cycle of violence, from which there is no foreseeable positive future,” Princess Haya said.

“So many people have lost their lives in this conflict. Peace must be restored so that we can help these survivors return home to rebuild their lives,” said Morris.