Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2018 14:31:16 +0200

Beirut, April 5, 2018 (AFP) - A funding gap is compromising the response to a measles outbreak in Lebanon, a United Nations statement said Thursday, warning it also risked allowing polio to spread from Syria.   The UN's Children Fund, which has provided free vaccines for children in Lebanon for a quarter of a century, said the first 12 weeks of 2018 had seen a sharp increase in measles cases.   It said it was currently among several partners supporting the Lebanese health ministry's immunisation campaign "not only for measles but also for polio in order to mitigate the risk of polio spreading from Syria."   "If we don't react now, more serious epidemics will hit," Tanya Chapuisat, UNICEF's representative in Lebanon, said.   The agency made a $5 million appeal to donors, arguing it needs to replenish vaccine stocks and reach vulnerable children in isolated areas.
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2017 22:13:18 +0100

Riyadh, Nov 9, 2017 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on Thursday urged their citizens to leave Lebanon immediately, days after Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation while visiting Riyadh.

"Due to the situation in the Republic of Lebanon, the kingdom asks its nationals visiting or living in Lebanon to leave as soon as possible, and advises its citizens not to travel there," said a Saudi foreign ministry source, quoted by state news agency SPA.   Kuwait called on "all its citizens to leave Lebanon immediately" and avoid going there as a precautionary measure, state agency KUNA reported a source at the foreign ministry as saying.

On November 4, Hariri announced in a televised speech from Saudi Arabia that he was stepping down, citing Iran's "grip" on Lebanon and threats to his life.   The shock announcement raised fears that Lebanon -- split into rival camps led by Hariri and the Iranian-backed movement Hezbollah -- could once again descend into violence.   Hariri, who also holds Saudi nationality and whose wife and children live in the kingdom, has since met Saudi King Salman and travelled to the United Arab Emirates, according to official media in the Gulf states.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said he will await Hariri's return before taking any decision, while Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Hariri's resignation had been "imposed" by Saudi Arabia.   The resignation coincided with the announcement in Saudi Arabia of an anti-corruption purge in which dozens of princes, ministers and businessmen have been rounded up.   Bahrain, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, advised its citizens against travel to Lebanon a day after Hariri's announcement.
Date: Tue, 12 Apr 2016 14:33:35 +0200

Sidon, Lebanon, April 12, 2016 (AFP) - A car bomb exploded on Tuesday in Lebanon's southern port city of Sidon, killing at least one person identified as a Palestinian official, a security source said.   The source said the blast killed Fathi Zeidan, who headed the Fatah movement in the Miye Miye Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon.   "His identification card was found near the car which exploded, which was also his," the source told AFP.

A statement from Lebanon's armed forces said Zeidan had been driving the car when one kilogramme of explosives hidden inside his vehicle detonated.    The army's forensics unit arrived at the scene of the blast and cleared away scorched body parts lying near a car in flames, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.   More than 450,000 Palestinians are registered in Lebanon with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, and many live in squalid conditions in 12 official camps.   The camps are administered by Palestinian officials and security forces, rather than the Lebanese authorities.

In recent years, tensions have risen between Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas' Fatah movement and the Jund al-Sham Islamist group, especially in the Ain al-Hilweh camp, which is also near Sidon.   The rival factions in Ain al-Hilweh have clashed several times in the past year, with each side accusing each other of assassination attempts.   Ain al-Hilweh has become the scene of score-settling between several factions, and a breeding ground for extremist groups that have flourished on the back of the poverty afflicting the camp.
Date: Mon, 4 Apr 2016 05:15:50 +0200
By Maya Gebeily

Naameh, Lebanon, April 4, 2016 (AFP) - Imagine living near a trash dump so putrid that you would rather move to war-torn Syria.   That's what Fayyad Ayyash, his wife Riham and their four young daughters plan to do next week, leaving behind their home in Lebanon for neighbouring Syria.

Their modest two-storey house in the town of Naameh, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of the Lebanese capital, directly overlooks the infamous and odorous landfill by the same name.    "We're going next week. In Syria, there's a possibility I might die. Here, we'll definitely die," Fayyad tells AFP.    From his grassy backyard, dozens of large trucks carrying tonnes of waste can be seen -- and smelled -- lining up to add their load to the "trash mountain."

The July 2015 closure of the notorious landfill lies at the heart of Lebanon's trash crisis, which has seen rivers of trash spread across the Mediterranean country, triggering protests nationwide.   Then last month, the government made a controversial decision to reopen it -- and this was the last straw for residents like Fayyad.   Pulling out a bright blue inhaler, he says his family has been suffering from respiratory problems for months because of the dump.

His daughters, whose ages range from just under two to 10 years, all have trouble eating and sleeping.   "It's always worse at night than during the day. The whole area is swarming with the same smell and the same sickness," he says.   Fayyad says it's become so bad, he's decided to flee across the border to the town of Libeen in southern Syria, a country where a conflict has been raging since 2011.

- Costly medical bills -
The Naameh landfill opened in 1997 and was meant to be a temporary dump, but an alternative site was never opened.    For 20 years, the waste generated in Beirut and Mount Lebanon -- the country's most populous areas -- was dumped in Naameh.   The verdant valley swelled into a trash mountain of more than 15 million tonnes.    Furious residents forced the closure of the site in July 2015, saying it was leading to high cancer rates, skin diseases and breathing problems.

Uncollected rubbish began piling up around Beirut and its suburbs, emitting a horrible stench that sparked protests in downtown Beirut demanding a long-term solution.   After months of political wrangling, Lebanon's cabinet announced a four-year plan to end the waste crisis -- and its first step was reopening Naameh for two months.    "When the dump reopened, my baby immediately started throwing up again," Fayyad says.

Fayyad and his Syrian wife, Riham, are both Druze, an offshoot of Islam.   Riham estimates that she spends about $1,000 (around 880 euros) per month on doctor's visits, inhalers, and other medication for her children.    Pointing to her bare finger, she says she had to sell her wedding ring to cover the costs.    "I wish my kids would eat food as much as they take medicine," she says.    Riham's family hails from Libeen, in Syria's southern Sweida province. That's where she will travel to next week, in the hope that the open plains there will be good for her children.

- Suitcase 'packed and ready' -
Sweida, the heartland of Syria's Druze minority, has come under attack by jihadists of the Islamic State group but has seen less fighting than other parts of the country.   "No, it isn't safe, but I'm forced to leave... I have a suitcase packed and ready on top of the closet," Riham says.    Farouk Merhebi from the American University of Beirut says the smell has probably made life incredibly uncomfortable for hundreds living within a one-kilometre radius of the dump.

Before the crisis began, trash trucks would dump between 2,800 to 3,000 tonnes of waste per day in Naameh, says Merhebi, who is AUB's director of environmental health, safety and risk management.    "Now it's about 8,000 to 9,000 tonnes. The operations almost tripled because they're playing catch-up with the trash that had accumulated," he says.   "The waste that has accumulated in streets has fermented, so the smell is offensive...

The smell is worse because it's been there for seven to eight months."   But the long-term health effects of the dump on the surrounding area remain untested.   Merhebi is part of a team at AUB hoping for funding to complete research in the area "to test the surface water, ground water, and some samples of the soil as well as samples of ambient air."    But Fayyad and his family say they cannot wait.    "Riham's family said they were thinking of coming to Lebanon," he says.    "But we told them, 'do you want to die here from the smell?'"
Date: Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:51:23 +0100

Beirut, Feb 10, 2016 (AFP) - Swine flu has killed four people in Lebanon since the beginning of the winter season in November, health officials said on Wednesday.   Walid Ammar, the general director of Lebanon's health ministry, told AFP there were "four confirmed H1N1 deaths this winter season."    "The cases that needed emergency care this winter season is up 20 percent compared to last winter," partly due to a more efficient referral system between the hospitals and the health ministry, he said.

Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said the four fatal cases were a child aged three, a 31-year-old woman, a 36-year-old pregnant woman, and a 58-year-old man.    He also said reported cases had increased by 20 percent but that the number of deaths was comparable with the previous winter season, in which five people died of H1N1.    "The solution would be to decrease kissing, unless extremely necessary," Abu Faour said jokingly to journalists.

His comments sparked a new hashtag on Twitter -- #KissForFaour -- that saw Lebanese users post pictures themselves kissing their partners, children, or even pets.    A regional outbreak of swine flu in 2009 sparked warnings from governments and the World Health Organisation.    By August 2010, when the WHO lifted its warning, the virus had killed 18,500 people in 214 countries.
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