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CURRENT ISSUE:  August 7, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 14Oakland, CA

Catholic agencies rush to send aid to war’s victims

Catholic relief organizations are working against time, battling shortages of food, water and fuel, and treacherous conditions to bring emergency supplies and assistance to thousands of people impacted by the current conflict in the Middle East.

“Right now, this man-made humanitarian crisis is spiraling out of control,” said Mark Schnellbaecher, Catholic Relief Services’ regional director for the Middle East, who has lived in Beirut for the last two years.

“An eagerly anticipated cease-fire has not happened and no solution to the crisis has been found. Almost one quarter of Lebanon’s four million people are now directly and personally affected by this conflict, either driven from their homes or trapped in them.”

CRS officials described the situation in Sidon, Lebanon’s third largest city, as “particularly acute.” Residents and more than 40,000 people who fled there from the south have been cut off from supplies and escape routes because access roads were destroyed by Israeli bombing. CRS is providing displaced families with food, diapers, blankets, medicine and cleaning supplies and blankets.

Catholic Near East Welfare Association is also responding to the crisis, distributing emergency supplies to displaced families. fleeing southern Lebanon. CNEWA, a Vatican agency that supports churches and people of the Middle East, reported that over 5,700 families, more than 1,000 of whom are Christian, had been sheltered in public schools, private homes, convents and other Catholic institutions.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 800,000 Lebanese have been forced north from their homes since the current conflict began last month. Some 150,000 fled to Syria.



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