Lebanon crisis spiralling out of control: Caritas

Food and medicines are dwindling rapidly in Lebanon and water is in short supply for people displaced by the war, according to Caritas agencies.

According to a US Caritas aid agency Catholic Relief Services (CRS) statement, a major humanitarian crisis is imminent in the hardest hit areas of Lebanon if life-saving relief supplies do not reach those in need by the end of this week.

At least 445 people, mostly civilians, have been confirmed killed in Lebanon since Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers on 12 July, according to a Reuters tally, while fifty-one Israelis, including 18 civilians, have been killed.

Caritas continues to urge "the immediate cessation of hostilities, the lifting of the siege on the Lebanese people, and the establishment of a humanitarian corridor that would provide unfettered, safe access for the delivery of vitally needed assistance."

The stocks of basic food and relief items such as medicines are rapidly dwindling, according to the statement. It says what remains available can only be found at greatly inflated prices. Two weeks of intensive bombing of roads and bridges further complicates the delivery of assistance to those who need it.

"Right now, this man-made humanitarian crisis is spiralling out of control," says Mark Schnellbaecher, CRS Regional Director for the Middle East, who has lived in Beirut for the last two years.

"An eagerly anticipated cease-fire has not happened and no solution to the crisis has been found. Almost one quarter of Lebanon's four million people are now directly and personally affected by this conflict, either driven from their homes or trapped in them."

Meanwhile, the Indian Catholic reports that the Lebanese delegation to the Middle East crisis meeting in Rome has also expressed its disappointment with the international community's response, but said it was grateful to the Vatican and to Catholics praying for peace.

After attending the conference, Tarek Mitri, an Orthodox Christian and Lebanese culture minister, joined the lay Community of Sant'Egidio on 26 July for its daily evening prayer at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

After the prayer, he told Sant'Egidio members, "I came to Rome with my prime minister to participate in this important meeting of solidarity and in search for a resolution to this conflict.

"We came looking for peace, but it did not happen," he said.

"So, I came here to pray with you, seeking peace in our souls, because without peace in our souls, we will not find peace in the world," Mitri said.

"At a time when my country is shattered, when Israel is trying to destroy my country, we count on your prayers," he said. "Once again, we will rebuild our country, but we need the support of a spiritual force, which comes with prayer."

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora led the Lebanese delegation and, in an emotional plea to the 18 foreign ministers and international representatives participating in the summit this week, he asked for an immediate cease-fire.

"The humanitarian crisis is spiraling out of control" (CRS 27/7/06)
Lebanese delegation leaves Rome peace summit disappointed (Indian Catholic 27/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Lebanon blog (now in English and French)
Catholic Relief Services USA

Asian and African migrants "abandoned" in Lebanon, Vatican says (CathNews, 27/7/06)

Cardinal Lajolo speaks on the Rome Conference (Vatican Information Service, 27/7/06)

28 Jul 2006