Location of operation: MIDDLE EAST
Amount of Decision: EUR 30,000,000
Decision reference number: ECHO/-ME/BUD/2006/03000
1 - Rationale, needs and target population.
1.1. - Rationale :
Following the capture of 2 Israeli soldiers on 12 July 2006, hostilities at the Israeli-Lebanese border turned into a large scale conflict between Hezbollah and the Israeli army with a significant human toll. The month-long conflict resulted in the death of 1.183 Lebanese and the injury of a further 4.055(1). In Lebanon, the bombing of Beirut, the Bekaa valley and the South of the country has caused massive displacement: figures reported by the Government of Lebanon's (GoL) Higher Relief Council (HRC) estimate that the total number of displaced amounted to 915,752 people, or a quarter of the country's total population(2). Of those, about 700,000 were displaced within Lebanon (565,000 had found refuge in host families and close to 130,000 were sheltered in public buildings) while almost 220,000 escaped the violence by fleeing to neighbouring countries, especially Syria(3).
The Israeli attacks on Lebanon caused widespread damage to homes and civilian infrastructure, including 630 km of roads, 78 bridges, 32 vital points (airports, ports, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical plants, etc), 25 fuel stations, 72 over-passes and 15,000 private houses/apartments,(4) leading to the disruption of essential services, and posing a serious challenge to the Lebanese authorities to ensure appropriate shelter, food, safe drinking water and health care for those affected.
As a result, the Lebanese authorities have asked for humanitarian assistance from the International Community. The European Commission adopted two emergency humanitarian decisions for a total of EUR 20 million for Lebanon and its neighbouring countries, respectively on 24 July 2006 and 26 July 2006, to immediately address the most urgent humanitarian needs identified right after the first attacks on Lebanon. The following sectors of intervention were included: shelter and non-food items, health, water and sanitation, food, psycho-social support, protection and coordination.
Following the unanimous adoption on 12 August 2006 of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 calling for a full cessation of hostilities, fighting stopped on 14 August 2006. The text of the Resolution (art. 6) also "calls on the international community to take immediate steps to extend its financial and humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people, including through facilitating the safe return of displaced persons and, under the authority of the government of Lebanon, reopening airports and harbours (...) and calls on it also to consider further assistance in the future to contribute to the reconstruction and development in Lebanon".
Despite a still unstable security situation, immediately following the cessation of hostilities IDPs returned in large numbers to their places of origin. Makeshift bridges have been constructed to allow vehicles to cross rivers. More than 90% of Lebanon's displaced have already headed home.(5) Many of them found their homes and all their belongings destroyed. This was especially true in the southern strip of the country and in the Bekaa valley where whole villages, including most of the infrastructure (roads, bridges, plants, hospitals) were razed by the Israeli air strikes, as were whole neighbourhoods in southern Beirut. Consequently, in the aftermath of the conflict, substantial numbers of returnees and a small residual number of IDPs are in urgent need of immediate assistance. According to UNHCR, a total of 151,351 Lebanese refugees have returned to Lebanon from Syria, since August 146. UNHCR reports still 2,500 Lebanese refugees in Syria(7).
Since the cessation of hostilities on 14 August and the lifting of the Israeli blockade on 07 September the humanitarian situation has changed dramatically. DG ECHO(8) was the first to send an international assessment mission to the south of Lebanon and to the Bekaa valley following the cessation of hostilities in order to evaluate the situation and determine the present and future needs. Its representatives organized a coordination meeting in Tyre on Thursday 17 August 2006. The NGOs present in the region, most of the UN agencies and ICRC attended the meeting.
The degree of destruction varies widely from one village to another within the region, according to the religious or political allegiance. In some areas, up to 50% of buildings are completely destroyed and most others damaged, but repairable.(9) The destruction affected private houses and social institutions: schools, hospitals, health centres, etc. Water systems are heavily damaged and, as a consequence the majority of the villages south of the Litani river are without water supply. The Lebanese water department is currently assessing the damage in more detail, including an assessment of all drinking water supply sources in South Lebanon. Extensive destruction to roads, fuel stations, and commercial properties is also apparent. Due to the high rate of destruction in some villages and the lack of water and electricity supplies, many of the returnees are temporarily staying with families or friends, close to their destroyed homes.
The cessation of hostilities, though fragile, has made it necessary to adapt the humanitarian response to this crisis in order to address the immediate needs of the returnee population and the remaining needs of the residual caseload still hosted in collective centres. Whilst the prevailing humanitarian needs must urgently be addressed, Lebanon will progressively enter a recovery phase if the ceasefire holds. In parallel, reconstruction will start. Experience following the Tsunami, the earthquake in Pakistan and other humanitarian disasters in the last years has proven a simultaneous need for humanitarian and recovery/reconstruction aid for a limited period of time following the first emergency phase. The return of the displaced and refugee populations to their areas of origin needs to be accompanied, in an informed and coordinated way, by measures aimed at facilitating their resettlement in the best possible conditions: water and sanitation, health care, some material for transitional shelter, psycho-social support, income generation activities for those who have not recovered their previous activity (it is estimated that up to 75 % of the population countrywide is currently jobless), and protection from unexploded ordnance, until reconstruction takes place. This means that humanitarian aid will be needed through the coming winter for the returnee population.
With this third Lebanon Decision since the outbreak of hostilities DG ECHO aims at providing humanitarian and early recovery assistance to the returnee population and the residual caseload still hosted in collective centres. Operations funded under this decision will focus on demarcation, awareness and clearance of unexploded munitions, water and sanitation, shelter, and emergency health and food needs. Running over 18 month, the vast part of project implementation will take place in the coming six months in order to ensure a rapid humanitarian impact and assuming that recovery and reconstruction will start in parallel in line with pledges made at the Stockholm Donor Conference for Lebanon on 31 August. In addition to its humanitarian aid, the EC has already pledged EUR 42 million as a first contribution to Lebanon's recovery and rehabilitation. In line with the Lebanese Government's request for assistance, the Commission's package includes technical assistance to the government for the reconstruction process, focusing on infrastructure and environment; support for rule of law and improved internal security; and support for the Lebanese private sector to help relaunch the economy. However, the process of rebuilding, while already starting, will take some time. In order to ensure a smooth phasing from humanitarian aid to recovery and reconstruction a close coordination between the different services involved of the EC has been put in place. Furthermore, the humanitarian operations funded under this decision will be implemented in close consultation with Lebanese authorities and amongst Member States on the ground. Continuing the EC's humanitarian support while the recovery process starts in parallel will ensure that there will be no gaps in the funding and assistance to those who most need it.
(1) UN Revised Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP), 31. August 2006.
(2) OCHA, Situation Report 14- Lebanon Response, 6 August 2006.
(3) Higher Relief Council, Daily Situation Report. Sitrep No:15, 8 August 2006..
(4) Higher Relief Council, Facts &Figures. Damages, Updated15 August 2006.
(5) UN Revised Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP), 31 August 2006
(6) UNOCHA Situation Report 31 - Lebanon Response - 23 August 2006.
(7) WHO Leganon Crisis Health Situation Report No. 28, 23 August 2006
(8) Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid - ECHO
(9) UNOCHA Lebanon Crisis Situation Report No. 28, 20 August 2006