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UNICEF identifies clean water as the number one challenge facing relief efforts in south Lebanon


GENEVA/BEIRUT/TYRE, 22 August 2006 – Preliminary assessments have revealed major destruction done to water and sanitation systems by the month-long conflict in south Lebanon.

In 10 out of 12 war-affected communities visited by UNICEF in recent days, underground pipes and other water-related infrastructure had been seriously damaged or destroyed.

“I have never seen destruction like this,” said UNICEF water and sanitation specialist Branislav Jekic. “Wherever we go, we ask people what they need most and the answer is always the same: water.”

Jekic added that the acute shortage of clean water risked hindering the process of reconstruction.

"People want to move back to their communities. But whether they stay or not will depend on the availability of water.”

Similar conclusions have emerged from other assessments. In the district of Tyre, for example, water and sanitation systems in 42 out of 70 villages are reported to have been damaged.

UNICEF’s response to the situation is gathering pace. In the immediate term, distribution of bottled water is being stepped up. Since the beginning of the crisis on 12 July, more than quarter of a million litres of bottled water has been sent to some of the worst-hit communities including Bint Jubail, Ait el Shaab and Tibnin.

Currently, around 50,000 litres a week are being sent south by truck, but this quantity will more than double by the weekend.

Increasingly, bottled water provision is being complemented by the installation of large water tanks that better serve community needs. This week, forty rubber water bladders – each with a capacity of 5,000 litres – are being delivered to Nabatiyah and villages along the Israeli border. Partner NGOs Islamic Relief and Mercy Corps will deliver and install the tanks, and will also be responsible for ensuring the bladders are kept replenished.

Two 45,000 litre pre-fabricated metal tanks, provided by Oxfam, are being sent to the district of Al Khiam.

UNICEF Lebanon Representative, Roberto Laurenti, says collaboration with Lebanon’s four water authorities will be a crucial aspect of the agency’s longer-term response.

“The new agreement we have with the Beirut and Mount Lebanon water authority means we can give support in whatever form it’s needed,” said Laurenti. He said that with UNICEF’s support – including the provision of generators for water pumps, the supply of diesel fuel, and repairs to damaged equipment - 30,000 cubic metres of water would be provided to affected areas daily.

Since the start of the crisis in Lebanon, UNICEF has provided:

• 51 water tanks with a 5,000 litres capacity, to centres for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Beirut, Aley, Metn and Chouf areas; Beneficiaries reached: 25,300 persons. 1 x 5,000 litre tank and 2 x 1,500 litre tanks supplied to Marjayoun;

• Over 1 million litres of drinking water has been provided weekly to IDP centres in Beirut and Metn areas (300,000 litres weekly);

• 284,800 litres of bottled water to communities in south Lebanon;

• 385 water kits (containing collapsible containers, purification tablets and other items) throughout Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the South, North, and Bekaa; IDPs reached: 78,000;

• 3,150 boxes of water purification tablets to Beirut and the South; IDPs reached: 63,000;

• Essential drugs (including ORS & lice treatment) reaching 70,000;

• Vaccination against measles to 16,500 children: vaccination against polio to more than 9,000 ; Vitamin A capsules for more than 9,000;

• Implementation of public awareness campaign on the threat posed by unexploded ordnance. TV and radio spots have been produced and aired; 100,000 leaflets are being distributed at army checkpoints in south Lebanon;

• 27,840 bags/bars of soap to Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the South, North, Bekaa; IDPs reached: 101,000;

• 279,000 diapers to Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the South, North, and Bekaa; Children reached: 91,000;

• 370 recreation kits containing footballs and other games equipment. Children reached: 21,000.

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.


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