U.N. agencies can't get aid to Lebanon

Humanitarian crisis escalates as supplies and aid languish in Syria
Although Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced that Israel will allow "aid airlifts through its air and sea blockade" to Lebanon, U.N. humanitarian aid agencies are frustrated that they cannot move in from their position in Syria, hours away from the growing number of injured and chronically ill who need immediate assistance.
"It is enormously frustrating to be right on the back doorstep of Lebanon and ready to move in with hundreds of tonnes of aid, but the door remains closed," spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis of the refugee agency UNHCR told a news briefing.
And the World Health Organization (WHO) said hospitals in the south were running out of medicines and fuel for the generators that they have been forced to use since Israeli bombing cut off normal power supplies.
The agencies said the situation for civilians was getting worse by the day in southern Lebanon -- where Israel has been attacking the Islamic Hizbollah militia for nearly two weeks -- and in temporary shelters for people who have fled the area.
Israel has bombed the roads and bridges along the Syrian border, in what they assert is a necessary step to stop weapons and ammunition from reaching Hezbollah, but absent the ability -- and guaranteed safe passage -- for humanitarian groups to pass into Lebanon over the Syrian border, aid that is now hours away will be critically delayed. According to one U.N. source, "a route through Israel would take much longer to organize and greatly delay the arrival of urgently needed food, medical supplies and relief equipment."

Those aid agencies in Lebanon are also having trouble moving around in the country, because of safety concerns and limited access. Evacuating the injured from Lebanon has also become a serious problem, leaving them with no way out and no way for emergency medical supplies to get in.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister)

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Melissa McEwan writes and edits the blog Shakespeare's Sister.
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