Libya: Concerns over shortage of medicines, fuel, shelter

9 June, 2011
In Misrata, thousands of people are displaced. Libyans and migrants – mainly from sub-Saharan Africa – have also fled by boat to Benghazi or other safer locations. Credit: UNHCR
In Misrata, thousands of people are displaced. Libyans and migrants – mainly from sub-Saharan Africa – have also fled by boat to Benghazi or other safer locations. Credit: UNHCR

With intense fighting in Misrata and insecurity in Tripoli and other parts of Libya in recent weeks, international access to assess humanitarian needs in the country has remained difficult.

However an inter-agency mission travelled to Misrata by IOM-chartered ship from Benghazi 1-2 June, to conduct a preliminary needs assessment. Partners brought food stocks and vaccines with them, and successfully evacuated 166 Third Country Nationals (TCNs). 40 young Libyan men, many of whom were wounded during recent fighting outside Misrata were evacuated on the same ship.

According to the latest OCHA situation report, the team estimated that there are some 25,000 displaced people in Misrata, many living in schools and in houses with friends, butemergency shelter is urgently need. Agencies are particularly concerned by the need to help women and children who are showing high levels of anxiety and trauma. Displaced children need psychosocial care, but schools remain closed as many teachers were Third Country Nationals (TCNs) who have fled the fighting, and the mental health system is not functioning. UNICEF is coordinating with relevant partners to organize safe play areas and recreational activities.

The widespread presence of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) remains a clear danger to the city’s population, with 13 incidents involving ERW reported so far. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is training local volunteers to raise awareness of basic explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and Mine Risk Education (MRE). 

The mission also reported widespread damage to the port city’s infrastructure, including the airport, communications, water supply, power generation and distribution systems.

Another joint mission, led by the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) for Libya, Panos Moumtzis, travelled to Tripoli and surrounding areas including Zliten, Khums and Gharyan between 31 May and 4 June.

Agencies estimated that about 49,000 people displaced from Misrata are now staying in Tripoli and neighbouring towns. People are receiving adequate shelter and other assistance from the Government of Libya, but government officials said that food stocks may only last four to five weeks.

The mission also reported a shortage of essential medicines and surgical equipment in Khums, a town close to Tripoli. There is a national shortage of nurses, midwives, and doctors as many of these were foreign nationals who left the country at the start of the conflict. 

Long queues were also observed in front of Tripoli petrol stations, indicating a lack of fuel in the city. The fuel shortage is reported to be affecting food prices, which have been increasing since the start of the crisis in February 2011.

After the mission the Humanitarian Coordinator led a partnership meeting on 6 June in Cairo to discuss how to better provide relief to people affected by the Libya conflict. More than 35 Arab and Islamic relief organizations, the League of Arab States, and UN agencies took part and agreed on four key areas for improved humanitarian partnership and cooperation including borders, early recovery, health, and food security.

More>> OCHA Situation Report # 43