CNEWA – PONTIFICAL MISSION
23 August 2006
Our second visit to the south of Lebanon was to the region of Marjeyoun, which was occupied by the Israeli army until the year 2000.
The majority of the population in Marjeyoun is Christian. They were completely displaced following the fight between Israel and Hezbollah that started on July 12. After 14 August, only about 30 percent of the population returned to their villages (400 out of 1200 permanent residents). The rest are still waiting for the security situation to be stabilized and the deployment of the Lebanese army and the UN forces.
The trip to Marjeyoun, which is around 100 km from Beirut, took about 2 hours. On the way, we passed the villages of Deir El Zahrani, Habboush, Nabatyeh and Kfartebnit. The damage in infrastructure in this region is less than what we previously saw in the Tyre area.
In the Marjeyoun area we started our visit in the village of Deir Mimas, a Christian village with 200 families. The majority of the returnees were the elderly and mostly men who left their children and wives at the displacement centers. The famous olive fields of Deir Mimas were dangerous to go to at the time of the visit due to the disbursed cluster bombs that could be seen in numerous places. (The olive oil bottling plant and the cattle feed factory that CNEWA built a few years ago were not harmed).
In Deir Mimas we met the head of municipality, Dr. Kamel Morkos, and the Mayor Khalil Hourani. They both expressed an urgent need for electricity and potable water.
On our way to Marjeyoun, we could see the Khyam village (Shiite) on the other side of the valley. It looked completely destroyed.
In Marjeyoun, we met Jamal Abou Mrad (member of the municipality), Bassam Balaa (the Mayor) and Bassam Lahhoud (the principal of the technical school). They pressed us for diesel fuel in order to operate the water pumps. The wells in their village provide water to 8 surrounding villages. We were also told that the schools in Marjeyoun will be operated on 2 shift basis (morning and afternoon) in order to accommodate the additional students whose schools were totally destroyed. There is need for a 40-KVA generator that will provide electricity to 4 schools and the Lebanese Red Cross center. There is also an urgent need for detergent and milk for babies. Most of the damages in Marjeyoun were in the center of the village.
We noticed that the valley between Marjeyoun and Khyam villages was completely burnt. The farmers lost their crops of wheat, sesame seeds and vegetables. During the visit, we were told about 10 severe diarrhea cases due to the consumption of polluted water.
Our next stop was in Rashaya Al Fekhar, where only a few people returned to their village for the same security reasons. During the shelling, most of the inhabitants hid in Saint George Church. By divine providence, only 5 people were injured when the church took a direct hit by an Israeli shell, causing major damages.
Our last stop was in the village of Kawkaba. The majority of the inhabitants of this village were back. No damages in the homes were observed.