Copyright ©2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX COHEN, host:

In Northern Lebanon, thousands have fled the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp. They are taking advantage of a tenuous truce reached between the Lebanese army and Fatah al-Islam militants. Those still in the camp are in dire need of basic supplies like food and water, but the fighting has made it dangerous for relief workers to enter the camp. I spoke earlier with Hoda Elturk of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Yesterday, she was in a convoy that traveled to the refugee camp. She described what she saw.

Ms. HODA ELTURK (United Nations Relief and Works Agency): People were already on the street because they heard that the ceasefire had already been enforced. So they were already on the street expecting our trucks to arrive, the U.N. trucks, and we were providing them with food and medical supplies as emergency assistance.

COHEN: And what happened yesterday when you tried to deliver those supplies?

Ms. ELTURK: Actually, we entered the camp probably by 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon, half an hour after the ceasefire started. We started the distribution of the things we had with us in the six trucks. And then we started - by 4:00 o'clock we started hearing shooting, and then shelling started. Our vehicles were hit. We had to stop the distribution and come out of the camp.

COHEN: Were you scared at all for your own safety?

Ms. ELTURK: Definitely. Definitely. But you know, when you see that people have been - have gone through all this for days, and you say it's okay if I risk my life for one time. They've been there for days and they're constantly under risk.

COHEN: What do they need most right now, those living still in the camps?

Ms. ELTURK: I mean they're running out of everything. There is no water, no power supply, no food, no bread, no milk for children. This is what we provided them with yesterday. We also provided them with medical supplies and such things. So they lack everything. The shops are closed. Anything would be of great help for them.

COHEN: There have been reports that militants with Fatah al-Islam has been holed up in these refugee camps for months now stockpiling weapons.

Ms. ELTURK: Yeah.

COHEN: Who's been monitoring these camps up until now? And weren't there concerns that violence, like the violence we've seen in recent days, could erupt?

Ms. ELTURK: Yeah. Actually we are a U.N. humanitarian agency providing services to the refugees. We don't run the camp. We have no control over the security or the people living in the camp.

COHEN: Who does have control over them?

Ms. ELTURK: They have their own, if you want, committees, inside the camp that take care of the security. And they played like the role of municipalities inside the camps. And I would say there is a security, like a security vacuum inside the camp, but this is how the situation is.

COHEN: Is the Lebanese government able to go in at all and monitor what's going on there?

Ms. ELTURK: Actually, there is, I think, an agreement among the Arab states and with Lebanon that says that the police does not - cannot enter or choose not to enter into the camp. But the army is around the camp. The police is around the camp also. It's just that inside the camp this is not their responsibility.

COHEN: Hoda Elturk of the U.N.'s Relief and Works Agency. Thank you so much.

Ms. ELTURK: You're most welcome.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.