UN in Talks with Libya Over Humanitarian Access

A tented transit camp in Tunisia housing those fleeing the violence in Libya. Photo by: A.Branthwaite / UNHCR

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Libya, Rashid Khalikov, arrived in Tripoli on Saturday (March 12) to discuss with Libyan authorities access for humanitarian workers who need to travel across the country to deliver aid and assess the needs of civilians. 

According to Catherine Bragg, the U.N. deputy emergency relief coordinator, up to three-quarters of Libya remains shut off from receiving humanitarian assistance as political-related violence escalates in the Arab nation.

The global agency is working to gain entry into all areas of Libya and appraise humanitarian needs on the ground, Bragg told a March 10 briefing for the 192 U.N. member states, as reported by The Canadian Press.

“Inside Libya, we have scanty information on the humanitarian fallout from the intense fighting in the past few days,” Bragg said. “Medical needs are a major concern, particularly as we are receiving reports of hospital closures at a time when people most need medical care. We need nurses, and wounded civilians need to reach these facilities.” 

Aid group Médecins Sans Frontières said “large numbers of people” are cut off from any external assistance in Libyan conflict zones such as Zawiyah and Misrata.

The European Union has supported the creation of humanitarian zones to assist people affected by the violence in Libya, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after EU talks Friday (March 11).

“The Council (EU summit) has decided that the European Union will allow humanitarian agencies and actors access to humanitarian zones, in places that we did not specify, to deal with displaced persons, at first in Tunisia and Egypt,” Reuters quotes Sarkozy as saying in a news conference.”We would like these humanitarian zones to then exist in Libya to deal with the tens of thousands of displaced people.”

A looming food crisis?

Since the start of the political revolts, more than 250,000 people have fled Libya, most of whom are foreign migrant workers, according to U.N. officials. The officials said repatriating third nationals are squeezing the resources of international aid agencies, The Associated Press reports. 

The political crisis, which began last month, is expected to have a “significant” impact on food security in Libya and in nearby crisis-affected areas, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization

“Depletion of food stocks and loss of rural manpower are all factors that in the longer-term could seriously affect food security,” Daniele Donati, chief of FAO’s emergency operations service, said in a March 11 statement.

New pledges

Japan is offering an emergency grant of $5 million in response to the U.N.’s  $160 million appeal for Libyan violence victims. The funding will be managed by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, World Food Program and International Organization for Migration.

The African Development Bank, meanwhile, is providing a $1 million humanitarian emergency assistance grant to the International Red Cross Committee and Tunisian Red Crescent, while the Irish government has dispatched relief supplies and is contributing €250,000 ($348,298) to IOM.

Read more development aid news.

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.