July 31, 2006
ROME, July 30 (Reuters) – The U.N.’s World Food Programme said it had been forced to cancel a planned aid convoy to a southern Lebanese town on Sunday because Israeli forces had declined to give their agreement.
“We are extremely disappointed and indeed frustrated that we have been unable to go ahead with this convoy,” Amer Daoudi, WFP Emergency Coordinator for Lebanon, said in a statement released in Rome.
“There are tens of thousands of people in the south who are in desperate need of assistance. Obviously this is a setback.”
The six-truck convoy had been meant to take medicines, wheat flour, canned meat and vegetable oil to the Lebanese town of Marjayoun.
“The decision was in accordance with established security procedures in Lebanon, under which WFP requires concurrence from all parties involved in the conflict for humanitarian aid convoy movements. This is the first time that such concurrence has not been forthcoming,” the statement said.
Aid workers have complained they are finding it impossible to get medical supplies and food safely to isolated villages in southern Lebanon due to the Israeli bombardment.
Shortly after the WFP statement was released, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he had ordered that humanitarian aid be allowed to reach the south Lebanese village of Qana in which at least 40 civilians were killed by Israeli bombs.
But it was not clear whether WFP food shipments would be affected by Olmert’s announcement.
U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland on Friday asked for a 72-hour pause in the fighting to facilitate aid efforts, but Israel on Saturday rejected the call, saying it was not blocking aid from reaching southern Lebanon.
WFP, which is responsible for transporting all aid for U.N. agencies and much of the humanitarian community throughout Lebanon, said another relief convoy was scheduled for Sunday from Aarida — the only border crossing remaining open to traffic between Lebanon and Syria — to Beirut.
It said that from Monday it was planning to send at least two convoys a day to southern Lebanon, which has borne the brunt of the bombardment since the conflict started 19 days ago.
The U.N. estimates that at least 800,000 people, more than one-fifth of Lebanon’s entire population, have been displaced by the violence.
AlertNet news is provided by Reuters