Caritas Tending to Mid East Humanitarian Crisis

Confederation Appeals for End to Violence

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ROME, JULY 21, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The grave escalation of violence in the Middle East has increased humanitarian needs in the area, reports Caritas Internationalis.



Caritas-Lebanon is supplying food, medicines, soap, milk and baby products to 25,000 people. To a large extent, this aid is given to Muslims.

Trucks transporting drinking water and food are going to different parts of the country to assist victims of the armed conflict.

"We do what we can, but in some cities the Caritas teams are totally isolated, there is no communication with them, we cannot go in and they cannot come out of the area because the roads and bridges are destroyed," said Father Louis Samaha, director of Caritas-Lebanon.

Some 500,000 people have abandoned their homes in search of safety. Many have sought shelter in schools, convents and public buildings; others have been taken in by relatives or friends as their homes have been destroyed. Some 18,000 have crossed the border into Jordan.

"One of the problems we must address is the excessive increase in prices: Petrol has risen by 50%; some basic products cannot be acquired because of the increase, so we are also distributing purchase coupons," said Father Samaha.

Gaza

In the Gaza Strip, the situation is equally serious. "We do not have food, drinking water, electric light, candles or medication. The bombings have destroyed the electrical generators so we cannot store food, and water pumps are not working," said Father Manuel Musallam, parish priest of Gaza.

Caritas' medical center in Gaza is taking care of the wounded and sick, but its director, Dr. Bandali El-Saigh said that "without petrol, there is not transport; those who need care cannot come, that is why we will have to give them first aid kits so that they can take care of themselves or of relatives."

Caritas-Jerusalem has distributed 2,500 food rations, first aid kits, 750 coupons to be distributed to as many families. In addition, 3,000 lots of food will be distributed by a humanitarian convoy in cooperation with religious leaders of the churches of Jerusalem.

Caritas-Lebanon and Caritas-Jerusalem have appealed for the support and cooperation of Caritas' international network to be able to assist the victims.

The Caritas confederation called for a cease-fire and urged the parties in conflict to adopt the necessary measures to reach a stable and lasting peace agreement which will avoid further sufferings for the Lebanese, the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic aid, development and social service organizations present in more than 200 countries and territories.