(UN News Centre) - The first United Nations aid convoy to the south of Lebanon arrived in the port city of Tyre today, carrying food, medicines, sanitation and hygiene supplies for the victims of the worsening violence that has gripped the country.
The supplies are already being distributed to those in need after the 10-truck convoy made a five-and-a-half-hour trip from the Lebanese capital Beirut, a UN spokesman told reporters in New York.
This is the first UN convoy to the south in what is hoped to become a regular dispatching of humanitarian supplies along safe humanitarian corridors inside Lebanon to the people most affected by the ongoing military hostilities, said Marie Okabe, deputy spokesman for the Secretary-General. The convoy includes 90 metric tonnes of wheat flour procured locally, as well as other essential items.
The humanitarian initiative is an effort by the UN to support the Lebanese Government in trying to reach the affected communities with essential supplies, which were provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is also helping the Tyre municipality to receive the supplies and coordinate the distribution, reports Trend.
Along with increasing UN calls for a cessation of hostilities in the conflict, which was repeated again today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan during an address in Rome to a major international conference on Lebanon, the world body has also called for humanitarian corridors to get urgent aid through to those in need.
Unhindered access is a critical component of any humanitarian response and an obligation under international law, said UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman, whose agency estimates children comprise 45 per cent of Lebanons displaced population.
The UN on Monday launched a $149 million appeal for Lebanon covering the next three months and focusing on the immediate needs of food, health care, logistics, water and sanitation, protection and common services. Hundreds of people have been killed and an estimated 800,000 others have been forced to flee their homes since fighting broke out earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the top UN aid official continued his mission to the Middle East today by visiting the Israeli town of Haifa, where he witnessed first-hand the effects of Hezbollahs shelling.
Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, met Haifas mayor and also spoke with Israels Defence Minister and Foreign Minister and thanked them for the countrys support for humanitarian corridors.