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French Version

School furniture, heaters next on list in Qatar aid effort in South

Schools 'semi-functional' after first phase of reconstruction

Qatari reconstruction efforts in South Lebanon continue apace, with new equipment for schools and winter supplies for local residents due in the coming days.

Qatar is paying to rebuild infrastructure, public buildings and all private and public schools in four of the South's hardest-hit areas: Ait al-Shaab, Ainata, Khiam and Bint Jbeil. In 10 days, new furniture is due to arrive in 35 schools, while residents in the coldest parts of the four areas should soon receive free heaters and diesel heating fuel, according to coordinators for the reconstruction programs.

The Qatari agencies have assumed the roles of the state, as local and national governments have yet to provide assistance to victims of the summer war.

"We replaced the government," said Rania Abu Musleh, program coordinator for the Reach Out to Asia foundation, which is supervising school reconstruction. "It's the only intervention that has been up to the expectations of the people."

Abu Musleh was taking part on Monday in a four-day seminar and exhibition on Building Lebanon Expo at the Habtoor Grand Hotel.

Although they hire Lebanese and foreign contractors, the Qataris are controlling all aspects of the reconstruction - neither the government nor Hizbullah have contributed financially, Abu Musleh said. "Basically, it's a closed community there."

Qatar refuses to release figures on the amount of aid it is providing to Lebanon, but Abu Musleh said the budget ran to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Doha committed $300 million for the reconstruction of Lebanon at the August 31 Stockholm donor's conference.

The schools are now "semi-functional," Abu Musleh said, with some classes being held in double shifts in the usable classrooms. The foundation gave books, bags and stationery to about 4,000 private-school students under its purview. About the same number of public-school students fall under the foundation's care, she said.

Qatar also distributed up to $12,000 per family for home repairs in early October, and reconstruction should be completed in 18-24 months.

The Qatar Red Crescent has opened a field hospital in Sidon, as well as an outpatient clinic in Bint Jbeil and a mobile clinic for nine villages in the South, said Mohammed Ghaith Solh, Qatar Red Crescent deputy country director for Lebanon.

Qatar also donated 10 ambulances, 10 Land Cruisers for rescues, four pickups for logistics, about 10,500 kitchen sets, 2,500 blankets, 3,000 mattresses and 877 helmets to the Lebanese Red Cross, Solh said. The Qatar Red Crescent, which has a staff of 47 people in Lebanon, will also pay for fuel for all Red Cross vehicles until the end of the year.

The Red Crescent distributed directly to residents of the South about 350 tons of rice and 10,000 food packages, according to Solh.

In Sidon, Qatari doctors have performed more than 100 surgeries and see about 200 patients a day, all free of charge, said Red Crescent country director for Lebanon Dr. Nabeel Elmasry.

"We're very pleased with the outcome," Elmasry said. "We didn't expect to see 250, 260 [patients] a day in Sidon and 150 a day in Bint Jbeil. It makes me feel good that we are at least making a dent."

The Sidon field hospital should close at the end of this year, while the Bint Jbeil clinic and the mobile clinic might remain open until March 2007, Elmasry said.

Schools in the four areas will still receive science labs, computers and vocational equipment, such as kitchens for hotel-management programs, Abu Musleh said.

The foundation will then select a few schools for further upgrades and to be partners with Qatari schools through Internet learning, she said.

Beirut 28-11-2006
The Daily Star

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