Lebanon appeals for more supplies to prepare for possible war by Israel
Lebanon's Ministry of Health is appealing to the international community for more supplies to prepare for the potential for further escalation on its border as clashes between Israel and Hezbollah extend into their seventh week.
Fighting on Lebanon's border started after Hezbollah launched rockets at Israel in the wake of a Hamas-led surprise attack across Gaza's border on 7 October, which killed 1,200 Israelis. Since then, Israel has killed more than 15,000 Palestinians – most of them women and children – in its bombing and land invasion of Gaza.
The fighting on Lebanon's border has steadily escalated, displacing more than 55,000 to date.
Lebanon's government has put in place an emergency plan to cope with those already displaced and the potential for a full-scale war, which the UN says could cause more than a million residents to flee northwards and overwhelm hospitals in the south.
However, after four years of a punishing economic crisis, the Lebanese state is in dire need of medical and other supplies.
"Supplies, supplies, plus supplies. We still have lots of medication missing in Lebanon … We don't have enough money for everything," Wahida Ghalayini, the Public Health Emergency Operations Center Manager, told The New Arab.
Ghalyini said hospitals in Lebanon's south lack medications to help patients with chronic diseases, as well as basic supplies such as syringes, masks and dialysis machines.
There is also no burn unit in south Lebanon, an issue raised by officials particularly after Israel used White Phosphorus munitions on border areas, a weapon which can cause fatal burns.
To forecast the potential number of injured, the government has multiplied the number of casualties in Lebanon's 2006 war with Israel by three – which would see local hospitals having to cope with up to 12,000 patients.
The country's medical sector is in worse shape than it was in 2006, and the lack of medical supplies compounded by the loss of experienced medical staff as more senior doctors have moved abroad in search of better salaries.
NGOs such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN have helped conduct training for medical personnel in the south, holding workshops for mass casualty events and treatment of victims of White Phosphorus.
UNICEF – the UN's Children Fund – has spent US$1.4 million to bring in emergency health care supplies in the case the airport was bombed, as it was in 2006.
The UN body has also worked to equip Primary Health Centers in the south so that they can continue to work in the midst of war.
"It is an expensive and challenging operation to both prepare for and respond to … especially on things like water and fuel. We know in 2006 that fuel tanks were targeted, so it's very difficult for us to pre-position fuel across the country," Ettie Higgins, the Deputy Representative of UNICEF Lebanon, told TNA.
Most Primary Health Centers in Lebanon's south depend on a mix of fuel-power generators and solar panels, as Lebanon's power grid provides an inconsistent electricity supply.
Preparing for further displacement
The number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Lebanon has increased week after week as fighting intensifies and rockets fall further within Lebanon's territory.
While there has been a brief respite in fighting in accordance with the Israel-Hamas truce signed on 24 November, border clashes could resume once the conflict in Gaza starts anew.
Most IDPs in Lebanon are not living in displacement shelters but rather with families or renting apartments in different cities.
The financial capabilities of IDPs and their hosts are limited, especially given that three out of every four Lebanese live in poverty, according to the UN.
To that end, the UN is endeavouring to put in place cash assistance programs such as Cash for Work programs, Higgins said, adding that IDPs have started to be trained to help create winter clothing kits.
UNICEF has said it needs an additional US$39 million for its emergency preparations for a full-scale war. Already, it has borrowed US$4.9 million to cover additional needs stemming from border clashes.