UN Aid Reaches Displaced Civilians in Libya

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By UN News | IDN-InDepth NewsReport

NEW YORK (IDN) - The United Nations refugee agency said August 18 it had, for the first time, begun sending aid into western Libya from Tunisia to help some of the tens of thousands of people displaced by weeks of fighting in Tripoli.

A first convoy carrying urgently needed medical supplies and relief items from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was organized by the International Medical Corps (IMC) on August 16.

The two trucks set off from Medinine and crossed the border at Ras Ajdir before heading to the town of Zawiya, where some 12,000 people have sought shelter from the fighting in Libya’s capital.

The IMC also sent a second convoy later the same day of essential medicines and medical supplies to the displaced, who are living in very difficult conditions, UNHCR said. Members of the Taher Al Zawia Organization have been distributing the aid.

“This weekend’s operation is crucial and, we hope, paves the way for other humanitarian aid to reach affected populations who are stranded and in dire need of assistance,” said Saado Quol, UNHCR’s acting chief of mission in Libya.

UNHCR has a warehouse in Tripoli with stockpiles of critical relief items, but the agency cannot access these supplies because of the unstable security situation, which has hampered all its operations in the country since early July, including the provision of assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers.

Tripoli is facing severe fuel and power shortages and this has disrupted services and the distribution of basic goods and supplies, including water, food, cooking oil, baby milk, supplies, and access to banking, said UNHCR.

According to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, at least 2 million people may be at risk of food shortages if the fighting continues in Libya.

The North African nation has been embroiled in some of the worst fighting since the 2011 uprising that ousted former leader Muammar al-Qadhafi and set the country on a transition to democracy.

On August 17, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) condemned the “grave escalation” in the fighting in Tripoli and its suburbs and urged all parties to work towards an immediate cessation of hostilities.

On August 7 the United Nations mission assisting Libya condemned the "grave escalation" in the fighting in the capital, Tripoli and its suburbs and urged all parties to work to put an end to the security deterioration, which forebodes serious consequences on the humanitarian level.

In a statement from Tripoli, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said it "strongly denounced the shelling of residential neighbourhoods, which has inflicted casualties among civilians, forced them out of their homes and caused damage to property."

The Mission said it deeply regrets that there has been "no response to the repeated international appeals" and its own efforts for an immediate ceasefire. Continued fighting poses a serious threat to Libya's political process, as well as to the security and stability of the country.

UNSMIL would continue to work "in spirit of impartiality and transparency, and to ensure Libya's national interest." To that end, it appealed to all parties to cooperate with efforts to end the bloodshed and stave off further losses. Tackling the current crisis starts with an immediate cessation of hostilities, the mission said.

Libya has been embroiled in some of the worst fighting since the 2011 uprising that ousted former leader Muammar al-Qadhafi and set the North African nation on a path to democratic transition.

UN humanitarian agencies have recently warned that living conditions in the country are steadily deteriorating. Food, fuel and electricity are in diminishing supply while indiscriminate shelling of heavily populated areas in both Tripoli and Benghazi have resulted in the death or injury of civilians, including children. [IDN-InDepthNews – August 19, 2014]

Picture: A fork-lift truck driver unloads aid from one of the trucks that crossed from Tunisia to western Libya. Photo: UNHCR/A. Ibrahim

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