UNICEF pours supplies into Beirut

With fighting still intermittently under way in Lebanon, the United Nations Childrens Fund is already pushing forward with a massive relief effort there.

Two days after Israel's June 6 invasion of Lebanon, UNICEF started supplying the civilian population with tents, mattresses, milk powder, beds, and food.

So far, the UN organization has worked mainly through its three offices in Lebanon - in east and west Beirut, and in the south. And some supplies were already available in local storehouses.

In addition, the east Beirut office is liaising around the clock with with the Damascus UNICEF office. Planeloads of food, medicine, and tents have arrived at Damascus from Copenhagen and have been shipped to Beirut by truck.

These convoys have already brought to the victims of the fighting a variety of supplies, including blankets, vegetable oil, soap, drugs, dispensary sets, and, in the words of one UNICEF official, ''tents, tents, tents.''

So far UNICEF has spent $1.2 million to help the tens of thousands of often homeless civilian victims of the Israeli attacks. But, says UNICEF deputy executive director Margaret Catley-Carlson, ''we could easily spend another $5 million in a matter of days if we were allowed to operate normally.'' Ideally, UNICEF would like to repair the water system, rebuild schools, dispensaries, and other community centers, and ease refugee congestion (sometimes 50 people are living in one room). But to accomplish a task of such magnitude, UNICEF would need to land planes at Beirut airport and get supplies into Beirut harbor. Both are now virtually under Israeli control and, says one UN official, Israeli military authorities have not always made things easy for UNICEF.

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