Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown made his remarks to donors at an international aid conference for Lebanon in Sweden, at which Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora appealed for assistance to help rebuild the country after the 34 days of fighting that caused around $3.6 billion in physical damage.“Our challenge is now two-fold: to respond to Lebanon’s immediate needs, and to get the Government-led recovery off to a determined start in the weeks ahead, even as we prepare for an international conference on the country’s longer-term needs,” Mr. Malloch Brown said.“Yet it is the immediate recovery process that demands our most urgent attention. We must act quickly to build on what the Lebanese people are already doing to restore some normalcy to their lives after the conflict,” he stressed, warning: “We remain in a race against time.”Mr. Malloch Brown said these immediate needs include providing resources and materials to repair houses, rehabilitate schools, reopen roads to traffic as well as an “emergency environmental cleanup,” especially to address the devastating oil spill threatening the coast.He highlighted that the cessation of hostilities, which went into effect on 14 August, had allowed a strong and effective response that had now helped stabilize the humanitarian situation, but warned that the continuing Israeli air and sea blockade “severely hinders relief efforts.”“Aid when there is a blockade is like putting someone on life support when there is a foot on their wind pipe. We need an immediate end to the blockade and a political solution to the underlying causes of the conflict,” he said.The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which last week estimated that Lebanon suffered $3.6 billion in physical damage during the conflict, said that it will launch a revised Flash Appeal at today’s conference, expected to total around $96.5 million. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland is also expected to speak at the meeting. Some 60 Governments and organizations are attending the one-day conference in Stockholm, which has been arranged by the Swedish Government, and it hopes to raise $500 million to assist in Lebanon’s reconstruction.“The clear message of this conference is about showing solidarity with the Government of Lebanon,” said Stephane Jaquemet, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Lebanon, who is attending the conference. “The Government is in the driving seat.”In the latest humanitarian developments on the ground in Lebanon, assistance continues to get through to those most in need and today municipal workers handed out food rations from the World Food Programme (WFP) to vulnerable families in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a UN spokesman told reporters in New York.The rations included packets of vegetable oil, lentils, canned vegetables and high-energy biscuits, Stephane Dujarric said, adding that authorities in all four municipalities in the south of the capital say they will hand out WFP rations to more than 100,000 people over the coming weeks. read more