Lebanon seeks $382 m. to rebuild Palestinian camp

September 10, 2007 14:31

UN relief agency appeals for $55 million in emergency funding; Saniora warns that failure to rebuild Nahr el-Bared may lead to more violence.

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Lebanon seeks $382 m. to rebuild Palestinian camp

nahr el bared 224.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

The Lebanese government said Monday it would cost $382.5 million to rebuild a Palestinian refugee camp shattered by the summer's fighting between the army and al-Qaida-inspired Islamic militants, and appealed to the international community to help. The UN relief agency, meanwhile, appealed for $55 million in emergency funding. The appeal came at a donors' conference in Beirut that Lebanon called to seek international help to rebuild the Nahr el-Bared camp in the country's north, and allow over 30,000 of its residents to return. Prime Minister Fuad Saniora warned that failure to rebuild the camp could lead to more violence. "If we fail to rebuild, it will not only be tragic, but the dangers will be limitless ... the potential threat from violent extremism is against us all," he said. "We cannot risk chaos and violence" in any of Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps. A government estimate said the $55 million was needed for emergency relief for the camp, and further $28.5 for nearby Lebanese communities affected by the fighting. It also said $249 million would be needed to rebuild the camp and $50 million for reconstruction in surrounding Lebanese towns. The battles broke out May 20 between militants of the Fatah Islam group holed up in Nahr el-Bared camp, just outside the port city of Tripoli, and Lebanese troops surrounding it. It was the worst internal violence since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. The prolonged battles, which ended Sept. 2 with the collapse of Fatah Islam and the army's takeover of the nearly totally destroyed camp, left 164 soldiers dead and dozens of militants killed. Abbas Zaki, the Palestinian representative to Lebanon, said at the gathering that Nahr el-Bared fighting also claimed the lives of 47 Palestinian civilians. About 310 others were injured. Groups such as "Fatah Islam should no longer find safe havens and fertile grounds in the refugee camps," Saniora said. Karen Koning AbuZayd, the UN agency's commissioner-general, told the conference that the appeal includes the funding requirements for the critical needs of 5,449 affected families from Nahr el-Bared and areas adjacent to the camp in northern Lebanon. The UN agency will provide temporary shelter, assist in rent payments by refugees, provide prefabricated homes and support to host families, as well as health care and education for the coming year, AbuZayd said. The United States promised $10 million in assistance, in addition to $3.5 million pledged in June, Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman told the conference. Germany said it had contributed the equivalent of $5.5 million recently and was willing to look into other contributions. Italy said it expects to contribute the equivalent of $2.74 million while Norway pledged US$1.7 million The European Union, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Canada also said they would help but did not provide any figures. In making the appeal, Saniora said that while lost lives can not be restored, "the shattered lives of tens of thousands of civilians can and should be restored." Lebanon, still recovering from past conflicts, can not do it on its own and needs help, Saniora said, adding that the reconstruction effort needed at Nahr el-Bared was "unprecedented." About 400,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, scattered across the country's other 11 Palestinian refugee camps.

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