(Photo: AP / Nasser Nasser)
As Lebanon's worst internal fighting in 17 years continues to rage, World Vision is calling for a ceasefire to deliver humanitarian aid to the 30,000 civilians trapped inside refugee camps in Nahr el-Bared.
"We are talking about an overcrowded, impoverished settlement where more than one-third of the refugees are children," said Ruba Khoury, World Vision's program coordinator for Lebanon. "If everyday life was a challenge for these families before this fighting, it has to be a nightmare now."
World Vision currently works with local partners to run ongoing educational and vocational programs for vulnerable Palestinian refugees including disabled youth, women and children and is concerned about the welfare of civilians and humanitarian staff who lack access to water, electricity, medicine or food.
The Christian relief agency plans to send in staff to assess the full scope of needs and begin delivering aid as soon as safe passage can be assured. Khoury believes the most urgent needs will be water, food, emergency medical care and medicine.
"Even on its best days, Nahr el-Bared camp looks like another country from the rest of Lebanon. You can smell sewage and see dangerous wires protruding onto the narrow streets where barefoot, unsupervised children are playing," explained Khoury. "Without meaningful job prospects, these children don't have a very promising future to look forward to. World Vision is trying to change that with innovative programs and training but right now we can't even get inside to make sure our children are safe."
A vocational training center used by children and community members has been badly damaged, along with an office, according to one of World Vision's partner agencies operating in the camp.
World Vision has not been able to verify the safety of the children involved in the program, because aid workers cannot enter the camp and telephone communication has been difficult.
World Vision has served in Lebanon since 1975, focusing on community development in impoverished areas around the country. The agency has also worked in four Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon for the past decade.