August 25th, 2006 11:04 EST
UNICEF works to help Lebanese children back to school
With Lebanon’s education sector suffering around $70 million damage because of the recent conflict, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working to ensure hundreds of thousands of pupils receive notebooks and other supplies before classes resume, while other UN agencies have stepped up their humanitarian efforts and more teams are set to arrive to deal with the menace of unexploded ordnance.
“The slogan ‘education for all’ has never carried as much meaning as in the current situation,” said UNICEF Lebanon Representative, Roberto Laurenti, ahead of an appeal to be launched later this week to get international donors to support Lebanese Government efforts to rebuild and repair schools and classrooms.
“By getting children back to school, we are helping ensure their return to normal life,” he added, as the Fund said it needed assistance to provide school bags for 350,000 children and supplies for 1,500 government schools before the 9 October start of the new school year, already three weeks later than originally planned.
UNICEF will also support the rehabilitation of more than 150 schools in Beirut and other areas that were used as emergency shelters for families displaced by the war.
Lebanon’s Minister of Education says that preliminary assessments of war damage show that up to 50 schools in the south of the country have been completely destroyed, up to 300 others have suffered serious damage, while the education sector as a whole has suffered $70 million in losses, including damage to infrastructure, equipment and supplies.
Also on the humanitarian front, four more convoys left Beirut today for southern Lebanon, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, adding that UNICEF is also procuring a generator for the South Water Authority to help restore centralized distribution and urgent supplies from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) got through to more towns.
Hundreds of sites where cluster bombs lie unexploded on the ground have also been identified by the Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC), OCHA said, adding that more teams were being sent to help remove the deadly ordnance.
“The earlier estimate of 200-plus total strikes [of cluster bomb locations] has now been revised upwards to 300-plus… 13 new mine clearance teams are expected to arrive in Lebanon by the end of the week.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that preliminary results show that up to 70 per cent of all primary health-care facilities in the southern villages of Bint Jbeil and Marjayoun have been completely destroyed, and at present “there is no functioning hospital in the area.”
In a related development, UNICEF has received a $30,000 donation for its humanitarian efforts in Lebanon from the Iranian Football Federation, which raised the money from a charity football game earlier this month.
“We are extremely grateful for this generous donation,” said Christian Salazar Volkmann, UNICEF Representative in Iran. “This money will help UNICEF provide both immediate relief and long term rehabilitation of essential services for children.”