SOS Children's Villages Lebanon remains faced with a difficult situation 25/07/2006
Contrary to information from Austrian media, SOS Children's Village Ksarnaba will not be evacuated today. Conditions around the SOS Children's Village remain critical, however, and an evacuation has not been ruled out.
There are currently 15 children and six co-workers at SOS Children's Village Ksarnaba, which is approximately ten kilometres north of Zahle. Since the fighting began in Lebanon, grenades and bombs have fallen very close to the SOS Children's Village, which opened just last year. Many of the roads connecting Beirut to Ksarnaba have been destroyed, and the telephone network is almost completely down.
A picture from peaceful days: SOS mother with children from Ksarnaba - Photo: SOS Archives
SOS Children's Villages has been in regular contact with the Austrian embassy in Beirut regarding the possibility of an Austrian special military force and Lebanese security forces helping to evacuate the children and staff from SOS Children's Village Ksarnaba. The evacuation has not taken place because children and mothers have been gradually returning to the village after visiting their relatives outside the SOS Children's Village during their summer holidays. As a result of the poor communications, it is not known exactly when the children and mothers will arrive back at the SOS Children's Village, which is considered to be safe.
It would not be possible to completely guarantee the children's safety during an evacuation. In recent days shots were fired at aid conveys from the Red Cross and at another aid transport. Children and mothers will stay in Ksarnaba until SOS Children's Villages is completely certain that they can be safely brought to another location.
Sebastian Corti, regional director of SOS Children's Villages in the Middle East, is cautiously optimistic that the high-level political talks that are currently taking place will calm the situation. Evacuation does remain an option. Austrian diplomats have ensured that the Israeli forces know the exact location of the SOS Children's Village so that there will not be any attacks on the village.
The office of SOS Children's Villages Lebanon and the SOS Youth Facility in Beirut are still closed.
Helmut Kutin, President of SOS Children's Villages, said yesterday: "The four SOS Children's Villages in Lebanon have luckily not yet been directly affected by the fighting, although we are very concerned about the children and staff in Ksarnaba. Both the SOS mothers and the children are suffering greatly as a result of the continual bombing and grenades and the sound of fighting from very nearby. SOS Children's Villages has agreed to provide up to USD 100,000 as emergency relief, so that families with small children can be given priority in receiving aid."
SOS Children's Villages has been supporting families - who in the past week have found refuge in a neighbouring state school in Sferai - by providing them with food, baby food, medication and clothes. SOS Children's Villages Syria has joined the Syrian Red Cross in Damascus in aiding around 150 families of refugees from Lebanon. Families that are the most in need are being helped thanks to generous support from people in the neighbourhood and the local authorities. Depending on how the situation develops over the next few days and weeks, SOS Children's Villages will increase aid.