WFP today warned that a severe shortage of funding for its logistics operation in Lebanon is threatening to halt the international aid effort to provide relief to hundreds of thousands of displaced people and appealed to the donor community for more cash contributions.
We are doing our best to establish where people are and what they need
Thomas Keusters, WFP head of logistics in Lebanon
WFP, which is responsible for moving all humanitarian relief supplies into and within Lebanon for all the UN agencies and their partners, as well as providing inter-agency telecommunications support, has so far received only US$19.2 million of the US$39.5 million it requires for its three-month operation, leaving a shortfall of 47 percent.
“We are now seeing hundreds of thousands of people returning to the south of the country and many more crossing the border from Syria. With the extent of the damage, many of them will find they have nothing left when they get home,” said Thomas Keusters, WFP head of logistics in Lebanon. “They will be relying on relief assistance for many weeks to come.”
WFP and other aid organisations have massively stepped up operations in Lebanon, since the cessation of hostilities by both sides in the conflict came into effect on Monday morning, allowing access south of the Litani river for the first time in more than a week.
WFP immediately sent 24 trucks carrying food, medical supplies, water and sanitary goods to Tyre.
Yesterday, 15 of these trucks went on to the area around Rmeish, which suffered extensive damage from exchanges of fire between the Israeli Defence Forces and Hizbollah over the past few weeks. Many villages have been reduced to rubble.
“At this stage, we are doing our best to establish where people are and what they need – and of course this is complicated by the huge numbers that are returning home,” Keusters said.
“We are working in close co-operation with the International Committee of the Red Cross, to make sure that we do not duplicate each other’s aid efforts.”
Early this morning, a WFP-chartered roll-on, roll-off vessel, the M/V Anamcara, set sail from Beirut port for Tyre, carrying 21 trucks loaded with food and other supplies – including a tanker bringing fuel to hospitals in and around Tyre for the World Health Organization and for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees. The ship is due to dock in Tyre later today.
“Opening up the sea route south is extremely important for us, as it enables us to reach people quickly without having to rely on the land route, which has been extensively bombed and forces us to make long and circuitous detours,” Keusters said.
“The detours – often along minor roads or dirt tracks, through which big trucks can only pass with difficulty – have caused long delays, making trips up to five times as long as normal.”
WFP is setting up humanitarian hubs in Tyre and Sidon to speed up deliveries in the south, without having to travel each time all the way from Beirut.
The destruction of more than 140 bridges and severe damage to roads has hampered aid deliveries all over the country.