Lebanon crisis feedback report Sept. 2006
by Othman Moqbel
Tlonger than we had expected. Despite the he journey to Saida, from Amman took much ceasefire, the normally five hour long journey was extended to over 16 hours. Unable to cross the Jordanian Lebanese border at Al Masna due to heavy Israeli bombing, we were forced to travel via Tartus in Syria, crossing over into north Lebanon along a small rural road and then driving along the coastal highway to our destination Saida (Sidon). This coastal route, renowned for its scenic beauty was now littered with remnants of war. The revenue it bought to this region through tourism had now gone for the foreseeable future.
Even here in the north, the destruction we witnessed was on a much larger scale than expected, with every single bridge on route between Tripoli and Saida, bombed and destroyed.
As we finally arrived in Saida, almost a day late, we found the streets filled with tens of thousands of cars, minibuses, trucks and lorries -all crammed with people leaving the overcrowded city, trying to get home now that the ceasefire had finally been agreed. The fact that many of them would find only rubble where their homes once stood and would be forced to endure many months of hardship if not years did not allow us to share in their joy of returning home.
Our mission to south Lebanon was two-fold. Firstly, to carry out first hand assessments of humanitarian needs in the area south of the Litani River and also collect feedback from the worst hit areas on how MH emergency teams had reached the sufferers in this area during the war.
We visited various Muslim Hands feeding centres set up during the war in the local schools, and accompanied the Food Distribution Teams as they continued to deliver food parcels to southern villages. We were very warmly welcomed everywhere we visited. I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the destruction and their suffering.
The harrowing images of torn and battered bodies of men, women and children pulled from the debris, in almost every town we visited will remain with me for years to come.
Feeding Centres in Saida & Water Aid
During the war, MH with our regional partners ran Feeding Centres in Saida, which gave refuge to over 150,000 internally displaced people. We served hot meals daily in public buildings which were converted into temporary shelters.
Immediately after the August ceasefire, MH Lebanon began distributing food and water to southern villages, which could not be reached during the war.
The wilful destruction of power stations and infrastructure in general means there is no electricity in most of the southern towns and villages, which in turn meant no running water (as the pumps were powered by electricity). Initially, MH teams provided water by truck, driving from village to village to reach the worst affected villages as an emergency measure, but this is not viable for the various schools and future, as over 80 tankers would be required to provide for this purpose.
MH has now started using two large 'Mobile Power to access the network of water reservoirs already available in the villages. The mobile generators are moving from village to village a lot quicker than the tankers.
Each Mobile Generator costs £32,000.