TYRE, Lebanon (Reuters) - Many of the 44 teams clearing cluster munitions scattered by Israel in south Lebanon during its 2006 war with Hezbollah will have to stop work this month for lack of funds, a U.N. spokeswoman said on Friday.
Donors have failed to come up with a promised $4.7 million needed to fund the program in 2008, according to Dalya Farran of the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC).
“A very large number of the clearance teams will be stopping by the end of this month if we don’t get funds before that,” she said, adding that some donor countries had not kept their promises and others had lost interest two years after the war.
UNMACC has led efforts to clear thousands of unexploded cluster bomblets left over after Israel’s war with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas. Israel fired or dropped most of the munitions in the last 72 hours before an August 14 ceasefire.
Since then 27 civilians have been killed and 234 wounded by unexploded ordnance, mostly cluster munitions, while 13 bomb disposal experts have been killed and 39 wounded, Farran said.
Any reduction in clearance work would lead to a higher accident rate because past experience shows that villagers will attempt to deal with the bomblets themselves if they believe that no disposal teams will do the job, Farran said.
UNMACC has identified 1,058 cluster strike locations across the south. The United Nations says Israel has not responded to repeated requests for detailed data on the strikes.
Farran said 43 percent of the estimated 43 million square meters (51 million square yards) of Lebanese land contaminated by cluster munitions had been fully cleared and another 49 percent had been surface-cleared, removing the immediate threat.
Editing by Mariam Karouny