Monday, 28 February 2011

UN worried over Libya access

              The UN says 40,000 people fleeing Libya have have crossed the Tunisian border [Reuters]

The fragile security situation in and around the Libya capital of Tripoli has made it too dangerous for international aid agencies to assess the need for medicine, food and other supplies there, the United Nations has said.
"The major concerns are Tripoli and the west where access is extremely difficult because of the security situation," Valerie Amos, the UN humanitarian chief, told Al Jazeera on Monday.
"There are reports that between 600 and 2,000 people have already been killed in Tripoli. We don't know the absolute accurate number because we haven't got people there who are able to do assessments ... we've seen some horrific pictures of what is happening and we really want to be able to go in to help people in the time of need."
Amos also called on countries neighbouring Libya to keep their borders open so refugees can continue to flee.
As of Monday morning, an estimated 61,000 had fled into Egypt, 1,000 to Niger and 40,000 to Tunisia, according to the UN, which said there was concern about water and sanitation for the refugees.
Libya also borders Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan.
Red Cross teams
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also called for immediate and safe access to western Libya.
ICRC teams entered the eastern side of the country including the country's second city Benghazi over the weekend, and are now supporting local doctors with medical care. Two thousand people were wounded there, according to the agency.
A similar ICRC team including surgeons and supplies was waiting on the western border in Tunisia.
"Right now, the situation is far too unstable and insecure to enable much-needed help to enter western parts of the country," Yves Daccord, the ICRC director-general, said.
"Health and aid workers must be allowed to do their jobs safely. Patients must not be attacked, and ambulances and hospitals must not be misused. It's a matter of life and death."
Thousands of foreigners have been evacuated from Libya since the unrest began, with ships and planes sent by countries including China  India, the US, Turkey and many other European countries.
But many citizens of Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and other poor countries are stranded in the country as they lack the resources to escape, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said.
 "There are no planes and boats to evacuate people originating from war-torn or very poor countries," he said in a statement.
The few UN workers who were based in Tripoli left when it became unstable.
Amos said humanitarian work is proceeding smoothly along Libya's eastern border with Egypt,  which is now controlled by government opponents, with eight agencies providing medical care, food and other critical aid.
Tunisians, to the northwest, have been providing refugees with shelter and food, Amos said.

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