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Humanitarian response urgently needed to address Lebanese health crisis

The humanitarian effort in Lebanon requires access to those in need, security for aid workers on the ground, and adequate funding. Currently, little has been done to secure any of these basic requirements. At least 900 000 Lebanese have been displaced; hundreds of thousands have taken refuge in public spaces. Those remaining without humanitarian assistance are the old, sick, and injured. Damage to roads and bridges in Lebanon has hindered delivery of aid, while severe shortages of safe drinking water, food, fuel, and medical supplies have been reported all over south Lebanon.

The Lancet believes a humanitarian response, parallel to but separate from the political, should begin with a summit of international development and health ministers to address barriers to aid delivery.

The Lancet comments: "They and only they would have the legitimacy to add new diplomatic urgency to the UN Security Council's effort to achieve an immediate ceasefire. Development and health experts could create a mechanism to coordinate the complex array of international organisations working in Lebanon. They can sharpen legal instruments to protect humanitarian corridors. And they can leverage funding to meet the UN targetsWestern governments are willing to allow civilians to perish--in the words of WHO, Israel and Hizbollah's military action "continues to pose an unacceptable threat upon humanitarian access"--in order to protect the political status quo in a region that needs a vigorously renewed effort to achieve long-term stability and security for displaced and threatened peoples on all sides. The humanitarian indifference that typifies American and British policy is a betrayal of democratic principles of peace and reason. It is impossible to express the despair into which their empty leadership has plunged us."


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Contact: Joe Santangelo
j.santangelo@elsevier.com
212-633-3810
Lancet
9-Aug-2006


Page: 1

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