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Lebanon: World Vision calling for ceasefire to reach civilians in embattled refugee camp

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Aid agency fears physical, psychological toll on children; one in three refugees are under age 15

Beirut, Lebanon, May 22, 2007-As Lebanon's worst internal fighting in 17 years continues to rage in and around the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, World Vision is calling for a ceasefire to deliver humanitarian aid to the 30,000 cilivians trapped inside. The Christian relief agency works with local partners to run ongoing educational and vocational programs for vulnerable Palestinian refugees-including disabled youth, women and children-and is concerned about the welfare of civilians and humanitarian staff who lack access to water, electricity, medicine or food.

"We are talking about an overcrowded, impoverished settlement where more than one-third of the refugees are children," said Ruba Khoury, World Vision's program coordinator for Lebanon. "If everyday life was a challenge for these families before this fighting, it has to be a nightmare now."

World Vision plans to send in relief staff to assess the full scope of needs and begin delivering aid as soon as safe passage can be assured. The most urgent need will likely be for water, food, emergency medical care, and medicine, Khoury said.

"Even on its best days, Nahr el-Bared camp looks like another country from the rest of Lebanon. You can smell sewage and see dangerous wires protruding onto the narrow streets where barefoot, unsupervised children are playing," describes Khoury. "Without meaningful job prospects, these children don't have a very promising future to look forward to. World Vision is trying to change that with innovative programs and training-but right now we can't even get inside to make sure our children are safe."

A vocational training center used by children and community members has been badly damaged, along with an office, according to one of World Vision's partner agencies operating in the camp. World Vision has not been able to verify the safety of the children involved in the program, because aid workers cannot enter the camp and telephone communication has been difficult.

Power and water to the camp have been cut, adding to the humanitarian burden faced by the camp's 30,000 residents. World Vision is also concerned about recent reports that those with chronic illness such as diabetes are running short of vital medicines they need.

World Vision has served in Lebanon since 1975, focusing on community development in impoverished areas around the country. The agency has also worked in four Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon for the past decade.

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To speak with World Vision staff in Lebanon or for more information, please contact Rachel Wolff at 253.394.2214 or rwolff@worldvision.org, or Brian Peterson at 407.491.2399.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit worldvision.org/press.