WFP chief visits Lebanon -- food needs being met as normal life slowly resumes
The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, James Morris, who is currently visiting Lebanon, today travelled south to see for himself the impact of the war on a town badly damaged by bombing and to review the needs of the people as they rebuild their lives after nearly five weeks of conflict.
Located about 50 km down the coast from Beirut, Ghazieh is a farming community with a scattering of light industry. During the recent conflict, 31 of its residents were killed in bombing raids and some 20 houses and dozens of shops were destroyed. Most of those who fled the fighting have now returned, and have started repairing and reconstructing their properties. But many are still in need of humanitarian assistance, including clean water and food supplies.
"Over the next few weeks, many people still need food aid so their resources and energies can be devoted to the numerous other issues they face while recovering from the crisis," said Morris, who arrived in Lebanon yesterday on a two-day visit following a trip to Egypt, where he addressed the League of Arab States during the opening session of the Economic and Social Council. "Once commercial activities return to normal, we will be able to wind up our operations. We do not want to stay a day longer than necessary."
In line with WFP's policy of distributing two-week rations to those in need, the people of Ghazieh are this weekend due to receive packages of wheat flour, salt, and canned meat and vegetables. WFP rations will be distributed locally to some 2,500 people by the municipal authorities.
"Having followed the conflict day by day, I was determined to come to Lebanon and see for myself what people have gone through," Morris said. "I am saddened by their losses but also encouraged by people's strength and resilience. After what I've seen today, I am confident that the Lebanese people will overcome this latest ordeal."
Yesterday, Morris met the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora, and the Advisor to the PM and President of the Committee for Development and Reconstruction, Nabil Al Jisr. Others met by Morris include Nayla Mouawad, Lebanon's Minister of Social Affairs..
As the humanitarian mission moves from an emergency to a recovery phase, WFP is preparing to wind up its emergency operation to provide food aid to Lebanon by the end of October. Due to the swift return to home areas and other promising signs of improvement in the country, United Nations agencies - WFP among them – will be able to scale down their activities and allow the Lebanese Government take a strong lead in ensuring reconstruction efforts are undertaken as quickly and effectively as possible.
Since the beginning of the emergency operation in Lebanon, WFP has dispatched a total of 4,500 tons of food to locations in all parts of the country. Morris paid tribute to the donor community for its generous and speedy contributions which enabled WFP to achieve its aims in Lebanon.
WFP has reached more than 700,000 people since the start of its emergency operation in July and is now targeting some 350,000 of the worst affected people in Lebanon, the majority of whom are in the south of the country, and in the southern suburbs of the capital.
While people are not starving and are indeed making progress in rebuilding their war-torn country, the need still remains for food assistance and other support for a few more weeks. This is particularly true for the more vulnerable sections of the community. WFP estimates that Lebanon's poorer households spend about a quarter of their monthly incomes on feeding their families.
WFP currently has an assessment team in the country, reviewing issues such as food security, nutrition, livelihoods and food markets. The team has already completed most of its field work in the region south of the Litani river and is working this week in Beirut's southern suburbs.
In addition to its emergency food aid mission, WFP continues to organize logistics operations on behalf of the humanitarian community in Lebanon. This involves assisting UN agencies, Government relief organizations and NGOs in transporting relief supplies by land, sea or air. Among the many non-food items that WFP has moved into and within Lebanon are the following: fuel, shelter material, water, and hygiene and medical equipment. In all, WFP has moved some 1,700 tons of humanitarian non-food items.
To date, WFP has confirmed contributions of US$10.8 million towards its emergency operation to provide food aid. Donors include Germany (US$2.6 million), Saudi Arabia (US$2 million), the European Commission (US$$1.28 million), France (US$1.28 million), Australia (US$1 million), Canada (US$885,000), the United States (US$572,000), Japan (US$500,000), Luxembourg (US$314,000), Greece (US$179,000), Denmark (US$168,000) and Singapore (US$25,000).
Contributions to WFP's Special Operation for Logistics so far have reached US$17.8 million. Donors include the European Commission (US$3.8 million), the United States (US$2.8 million), the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (US$2.5 million), the Netherlands (US$1.8 million), France (US$1.28 million), Australia (US$1.24 million), Norway (US$1.1 million), the United Kingdom (US$746,000), Denmark (US$673,000), Canada (US$664,000), Belgium (US$641,000), Spain (US$628,000), and Germany (US$510,000).