September 27th, 2006 11:16 EST
Lebanon: UN force tends to humanitarian needs following Israeli-Hizbollah conflict
The newly reinforced United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon has taken on a humanitarian dimension, clearing roads, treating the sick and distributing water although this in not its primary function, with individual contributing battalions often bearing the additional cost themselves.
Since it received its expanded mandate in Security Council Resolution 1701 on 14 August to supervise the end to 34 days of fighting between Israel and Hizbollah, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has cleared thousands of metres of roads, collected and destroyed some 3,500 unexploded devices, distributed more than 1.7 million litres of water and provided medical and dental treatment to over 3,000 civilians.
“Humanitarian assistance is not the primary function of UNIFIL and we do not have the financial recourses for these activities; most of the work is funded by the battalions themselves,” Force Commander Maj.-General Alain Pellegrini said today. “However, the people of South Lebanon have been relying to a large extent on us for this kind of help. Therefore, UNIFIL is doing everything it can to meet the needs of the people.”
Maj. Acharya Mamta is working for the Indian Battalion as a Medical Officer providing support to 20 local clinics in the north-eastern part of South Lebanon. “We are treating all kinds of diseases,” he said. “Medical treatment is very expensive for many people here and they often rely on the assistance of UNIFIL.”
UNIFIL also provides veterinary care. “Many farmers had to leave their cattle during the war,” veterinary doctor Lt. Col. Parasanali Bapu said. “Animals that survived are suffering from different diseases and wounds. Peoples’ livelihood depends on these animals and UNIFIL is here to provide help free of charge,” he added.
“We will continue our humanitarian work and I am personally involved in relaying to the new contingents on how important our assistance is to this long-suffering area,” Maj.-General Pellegrini stressed.
A Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) helicopter landed at UNIFIL’s base at Naqoura yesterday for the first time since the establishment of the force, carrying the Lebanese delegation for a meeting with Force Commander Major-General Alain Pellegrini.