Humanitarian situation in the Middle East rapidly deteriorating: CRS Emergency Relief Teams respond

Baltimore, MD, July 19, 2006 Catholic Relief Services (CRS) emergency relief teams in Lebanon, Gaza and Israel are responding to the increasing humanitarian needs of those affected by the escalating violence in the region. Immediate needs include food, temporary shelter, water, first aid provisions, blankets and hygiene kits as well as household items like dishes and basins for washing clothes.

CRS and its partners are part of a $2.9 million emergency appeal to support the displaced families in southern Lebanon and Gaza. Most of those families are poor and had little time to gather sufficient supplies before evacuating their homes. Thus, they are nearly completely reliant on outside support.

In Lebanon, CRS is coordinating with its partner, Caritas Lebanon, to immediately assist thousands of individuals who have sought shelter from the bombing. Many of those who have been displaced have taken refuge in mosques, churches and schools, where basic humanitarian necessities are desperately needed.

“The immediate provision of humanitarian supplies is vital,” says Mark Schnellbaecher, CRS Regional Director for the Middle East. “CRS has been working in Lebanon for a long time and our relief teams are committed to helping in any way possible. Our longer-term strategy will focus on the rebuilding of homes and infrastructure to help victims get back on their feet.”

In Gaza, where CRS has been operational since 1961, access to water, electricity, telephone service and food has become steadily more difficult. CRS is distributing non-perishable food items and household supplies, such as dishes, basins and soap to 1,300 families who have been seriously affected by the disastrous economic crisis and the recent military action in Gaza. Recipient families include low or no-income families; families who have lost their homes in the current conflict; families displaced by the threat of Israeli military action; and farming families whose land has been damaged by the Israeli military, resulting in the loss of their livelihood.

“Gazan families living in urban areas are receiving two to three hours of running water per day,” says Tom Garofalo, CRS Country Representative for Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. “Most do not have reliable access to sufficient water to meet daily needs including for drinking, personal hygiene and washing clothes.”

For those families in Northern Israel who have been displaced by the cross-border shelling, CRS is helping local Israeli organizations to provide immediate assistance.

For more information: Catholic Relief Services

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