Edinburgh charity on a mission of mercy to help war-hit nations

A charity has embarked on a desperate double mercy-mission to help needy communities ravaged by war '“ two decades apart.

Volunteer Maggie Tookey will travel to Lebanon with Edinburgh Direct Aid. Picture: Contributed

Edinburgh Direct Aid is on its way to support vulnerable adults and children in Bosnia, maintaining links with the area that claimed the life of one of its own.

But it is also sending goods and volunteers to one of the most dangerous parts of Lebanon near the border with Syria where some 80,000 refugees are sheltering.

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Government troops, IS and al-Qaeda-linked al Nusra Front are all engaged in battles for the disputed Bekaa Valley area ordinarily making it hard for help to reach them.

But Edinburgh Direct Aid has been working round the clock to establish links to secure passage for a consignment of support having had success previously.

A 40ft shipping container packed with vital medical supplies and equipment, clothing and other badly needed goods left Grangemouth Docks at the weekend bound for the town of Arsal.

It should arrive in the region within around six-weeks time to be met by volunteer Maggie Tookey who will make the perilous 124-kilometre journey from Beirut into the heart of the danger zone.

She was there in 2014, arriving as five Clerics were killed by a suicide bomber.

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Spokeswoman Ann Thanisch said: “We are prepared to go somewhere other people might find too dangerous, but only as long as we are able to serve the needs to meet.

“When we found Arsal, some 80,000 refugees had just come to a town of what was 35,000 in the middle of no-where and we can assist.”

Ms Tookey is a veteran of field operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kashmir and other disaster zones over the years.

But her colleagues admit Lebanon will be one of her toughest challenges yet.

Former treasurer George McNeill said: “Maggie is an incredible woman, she’s careful but she puts herself in harms way. She has established contacts with Lebanon based aid agencies allowing us to go.

“But Arsal is just over the border from Syria in the part that is difficult to get to, there are fears of IS who are operating just a few kilometres away.

“The refugees there haven’t been completely ignored by the bigger organisations. But it’s difficult territory to work in, they’ve not been getting the same levels as other camps. But we are there because it’s difficult territory to work in. The location is all the needier because of the current situation.”

For more information visit www.edinburghdirectaid.org/