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AFDC helps refugees in Lebanon

UPDATED August 9 2006:

AFDC team in easier times

ARC’s partner in Lebanon, the Association for Forestry Development and Conservation (AFDC) is marshalling its forces and, with remarkable cheerfulness its staff-members are doing what they can to protect some of the refugees from the Israel-Hizbollah conflict.

AFDC has teams protecting forest reserves throughout the country. They have both infrastructures and transport - although sometimes the latter is difficult because of severe petrol shortages involving three to four hour queues every half-tank.

"This problem about bombs in the forests is critical now as we are in the fire season and these activities cause fires right away...I am not just talking about a forest here or there, but about everywhere where there are trees."

Human Crisis

AFDC is giving emergency assistance to some of the refugees from the south: housing, feeding and giving pastoral care. Staff are working with refugee children - encouraging them to play and be positive - as well as working on sanitation issues in the schools where they are being housed, putting in extra pipes, water reservoirs and showers.

For details about how to contribute to the effort please see the end of this article.

Environmental Devastation

As well as the human issues - which are paramount - the group is also monitoring the environmental impact of the war, which appears to be significant and severe. Not only is there a 10,000 ton oil spill threatening the entire Lebanese coast, but the country's precious forests are catching fire on a daily basis.

"In early August Israel started to bomb forests in the South, thinking they harboured Hizbollah's rocket bases," said AFDC founder Monir Bu Ghanem.

"This problem is critical now as we are in the fire season and these bombing activities cause fires right away," he said. "I am not just talking about a forest here or there being threatened, but about everywhere where there are trees."

AFDC is a small charity run by Druze, Christians and Muslims working side-by-side. It grew out of the apparent disaster of a forest fire in central Lebanon thirteen years ago. A small team of young people pledged to learn to fight fires and prevent them happening, to plant trees, and to protect forests in the future. Sadly most of the forests that AFDC has worked to protect have suffered fire damage in the past few weeks, although it is certain that the damage has been contained by the fire breaks and other precautions the group has taken.

ARC started working with AFDC in 1999 when we were brought in – through our sister organization WWF – to help them work with the Maronite church on helping protect the sacred Harissa forest, and later the holy Qadisha Valley – the “valley of hermits” – in the north of the country.

Since then ARC has worked with AFDC on various projects involving secular government officials, Christians, Druze and the Hizbollah leadership - on protecting the environment and on educational programmes involving the best of all these communities.

This current action is a prime example of how a small charity can have a significant impact on a community in crisis.

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If you would like to help AFDC's emergency work in Lebanon please send ARC a cheque in sterling, made out to ARC but with a clear note that the money is intended for the AFDC Relief for Conservation Campaign. If you pay tax in the UK please mark it "Gift Aid" and AFDC will receive 28 percent more. The address is:

ARC: The House
Kelston Park

All the money given will go to AFDC: ARC is giving its management time and financial services free.

Or alternatively transfer money in other currencies directly to the AFDC campaign account in the Bank of Beirut and the Arab Countries. Account number 402425- 025; Account holder AFDC; Swift Code BBACLBBX.

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November 1, 2003:
Holy Lebanese Valley Formally Declared Protected
The future of an endangered holy valley was made more secure this week when a Maronite church leader presented a landmark document to HRH the Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace.
Tunza Magazine; January 26 2004:
From Small Beginnings...
The story of how five students got together to replant a forest devastated by fire - sowing the seeds of what was to become a full-scale national youth action group for the environment.
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