Lebanese short of food, water under Israeli bombs

TYRE — Ghassan Bourji says he has run out of insulin for his two diabetic children and heart medication for his mother because Israeli bombardment has cut supplies to his village of Rmadiyeh in south Lebanon.

“I’m scared I might lose them,” the 55-year-old father of four told Reuters by telephone from Rmadiyeh, south of Tyre.

“The situation here is miserable. We need help.” Many villagers say food, water and medical supplies are dwindling after Israeli air and artillery strikes destroyed roads and bridges in the south, restricting humanitarian aid movement to areas hardest hit in the eight-day-old conflict. The UN Children’s Fund said the fighting between Israel and Lebanese Hizbollah fighters has displaced some 400,000 people, who mostly fled their homes to stay with other families.

“The problems in the south are big, big, big,” said Soha Boustani, UNICEF’s spokeswoman in Lebanon. “If access to the roads leading there remains dangerous, then we will be facing a major humanitarian crisis.” UNICEF appealed for $7.3 million for the immediate needs of women and children.

Israel’s bombardment, in retaliation for Hizbollah’s July 12 capture of two Israeli soldiers, has killed more than 290 Lebanese and hit an array of army and civilian targets across Lebanon. Hizbollah has responded by firing hundreds of rockets across northern Israel, killing 25 people.

UNIFIL, the small UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, said on Wednesday it had only been able to carry out a small number of logistic and humanitarian convoys to needy villages.

It said the Israeli military has ignored repeated requests for safe passage for convoys carrying supplies to UNIFIL posts and distressed Lebanese civilians.

In the border village of Marieyh, Nouhad Thiyab said his family still had enough bread, olives and bulgur wheat for a week but that drinking water was running out. “We can survive by eating grass, but water is our biggest problem. We are rationing our consumption, we haven’t been bathing or washing clothes for several days,” said the 50-year-old teacher who has four children.

“Around five pregnant women are due to deliver in a few days and we don’t know what to do with them. We had no clinic or a doctor before and now everybody is too scared to go out.” The war has emptied roads linking villages with main towns in the south, witnesses say. Many petrol stations have run dry.

“Cars have stopped,” said Thiyab. “If we suffer casualties, we won’t be able to move them out of the village.” Shady Abou-Malik, who owns a pharmacy in the town of Rashiya near the border, said pharmacies have started to ration sales of basic medicine in an attempt to prolong their stocks.

The violence has forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes and stay in schools and public parks across Lebanon.

UNICEF’s Boustani said the makeshift shelters in the south lacked basic services.

“They have water, sanitation and electricity problems,” she said. “We need to be able to deliver emergency medical kits and other necessary supplies there. Children there also need medication for diarrhoea and fever.” In the city of Sidon, one school was packed with more than 60 refugees in each classroom, some sleeping on blankets. “I ran away after five days of bombing and my wife gave birth to a child here,” said Mohammed Khaled, one of the refugees, adding that he named his son Raad (Thunder) after a type of rocket Hizbollah says it has fired at Israel.

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