Lebanese displaced hang on as aid trickles in

By Michael Winfrey

BEIRUT- Heavily pregnant, Sahar Darweesh hopes to trade her dirty mattress in a grimy Beirut park for a hospital bed in three days so that she can give birth.

But then she and her new baby will have to return to the Sanayeh public gar

dens, where she has lived with her husband, three children and around 450 other Lebanese, since Israeli planes bombed their home in the coastal village of Naameh.

“I guess we will have to come back here. There’s no other place to go,” she said.

Sahar is one of the estimated 800,000 to 1 million people, roughly a quarter of Lebanon’s total population, displaced by the war which erupted on July 12 when Hizbollah fighters seized two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.

Aid groups like the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have managed to increase supplies they are shuttling to the growing hoard of refugees this week.

But a partial naval blockade, cratered roads and air strikes — which Lebanon says have killed some 900 people — are hampering efforts to deliver food, water and other supplies, particularly in the bomb-ravaged south.

“Between 800,000 and 900,000 (people) have been displaced from south Lebanon and we’ve only been able to deliver food for 80,000 for one week. So we are nowhere near our targets,” said WFP spokesman Robin Lodge.

Sixty-five Israelis have also died in the war.

AID ARRIVES

At a school in central Beirut, women used grey, stinking water to wash the floor of a school where around 675 people had taken shelter. Children played in a flooded stairwell next to toilets that reeked of sewage.

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates some 150,000 people have packed into schools and parks, and up to 200,000 have fled to Syria.

Another 550,000 have fled to the safety of Lebanon’s northern mountains, where UNHCR spokeswoman Astrid van Genderen Stort said there was a risk of escalating tension between host families and refugees who vastly outnumber them.

Small aid convoys continued to trickle out of Beirut to Tyre and other southern cities. Planes from the United Arab Emirates with 28 tonnes of food and medical aid landed in Beirut, adding to over 300 tonnes of supplies delivered a day earlier.

Global relief organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres chartered the Rainbow Warrior II, flagship of environmental activists Greenpeace, to move 100 tonnes of aid stuck in Cyprus for lack of transport.

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said it shifted 170 tonnes of aid from its emergency stockpiles in Syria, having received assurances from Israel that it will not be targeted.

But the World Health Organisation complained some donors had sent expired medicine to the conflict zone, tangling their already complicated relief work. — Reuter