Across southern Lebanon UN refugee agency teams assist with returns

Jennifer Pagonis, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a press briefing in Geneva that the agency’s relief convoys are heading into the villages of south Lebanon daily carrying thousands of essential items like tents, blankets, mattresses and cooking kits. “The tents are an emergency measure to help those whose houses are destroyed or too damaged to live in while they rebuild,” she explained, adding that UNHCR teams are now operating across southern Lebanon while new emergency relief supplies continue to arrive in Lebanon to support this programme of aiding the victims of the war. The agency’s teams, she said, are discovering “more of the complexity of the displacement situation.” While most of the nearly 1 million Lebanese who fled their homes at the height of the conflict are now home, thousands remain displaced either because their homes are destroyed or because of continuing security concerns. UNHCR staff are also reporting evidence of the psychological effects of the war, especially on children. In Sidon and Nabatiyah, the agency is providing tents to the local authorities who are organizing boy scout camping for children in the areas as a way to ease the trauma of the war.“Many of those still displaced are staying with friends or relatives in the vicinity of their destroyed homes. But others are further away, and UNHCR has found even a few families that returned to Syria until they feel able to return home,” Ms. Pagonis said.Larger pockets, often of several thousand displaced, remain in many areas of Lebanon, according to the agency. Most assistance is coming from government bodies, but UNHCR teams are also assisting those in need by providing items like tents, blankets and mattresses.

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