Relief to Recovery

Lebanon, September 7, 2006

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Jeremy Barnicle/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mohasen, a single mother of five, is one of hundreds in Nabatiye receiving hygiene kits, food and other supplies. Photo: Jeremy Barnicle/Mercy Corps

Nabatiye, Lebanon - The young men from Mercy Corps and the Jaber Foundation have the system down pat by now. Pull up, jump out, check names on a clipboard, and hand out the boxes.

Almost every day since July 22, about a week into the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah, Mercy Corps has delivered food and water to Lebanese people affected by the violence. People like Mahasen.

"Even when there was food available in the store, I wasn't able to pay the shopkeeper for everything," says Mahasen, a single mother of five picking up a food box from the men on the truck. "No one was working and we didn't have enough money."

Each box contains enough food - wheat, chickpeas, canned meat - to feed a family for one week. The accompanying hygiene kit supplies families with towels, soap, toothbrushes and paste, toilet paper, and other health basics.

Mahasen is one of more than 200,000 people who have received food and hygiene kits from Mercy Corps - and she will be one of the last, as the agency discontinues its relief distributions at the end of this week.

"The economy is coming back to life down here," says Richard Jacquot, who runs Mercy Corps relief operations in southern Lebanon. "People are better equipped to get the basics themselves, and we are transitioning into recovery."

Almost a month into the ceasefire and on the heels of a $960 million reconstruction pledge from the international community, Mercy Corps is shifting from emergency relief - providing food, water, and other essentials - to longer-term recovery projects like fixing water systems, preparing schools to open by mid-October, and expanding economic opportunities for farmers in the south.

This is the natural progression from relief to recovery, Jacquot says, but he warns that aid groups will have to keep a close eye on people in need, like Mahasen, through the winter.

"This will be gone in the winter," he says, picking up a locally grown pear. "Even with the war over and the economy picking up, people here could have some difficult months, so we will stay engaged with them."