x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UN agency needs money to feed Libya

Libya will suffer a huge food shortage unless the international community provides funding to help, says UN official.

DUBAI // Libya will suffer a serious food shortage unless the international community intervenes, a senior United Nations official said yesterday.

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) in Dubai said food stocks could run out within 45 days if supplies were not replenished and funding was not increased to UN agencies that provide food.

"At the most, we have one-and-a-half months of food supply," Mohamed Diab, the director of the WFP's Dubai office and the director of UN Donors' Relations in the Middle East.

"In the western part of Libya, we do not even know the utilisation rate as access to people has been very difficult," he said. "There is a possibility of a breakdown in the food-distribution system if urgent action isn't taken to replenish stocks. It is important for the international community to intervene to ensure continuity in food supply."

The country's food distribution system, particularly its ports, has been disrupted by the unrest that began in February.

"People aren't getting important commodities," Mr Diab said, adding that Libya's inflation rate had reached an estimated 40 per cent.

The protests against the regime of Col Muammar Qaddafi are part of a broader pro-democracy movement that has swept across the Middle East and North Africa. It has already toppled long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

The UN has secured more than 24,000 tonnes of food to offset the shortages in Libya, with about 5,500 tonnes already delivered.

Mr Diab has also appealed for more international funding, days after UN agencies revised the target for an appeal for the Libyan crisis to US$407 million (Dh1.49 billion), from the initial appeal of $160 million in March. The UN called for the additional funding on May 12 to assist more than 2.1 million civilians who remain in the country.

"We are still facing a shortage of funds for both regional and logistical operations," Mr Diab said.

Of the targeted funding, the WFP alone requires $42.6 million to procure and distribute food, and another $4.1 million to fund its logistics and emergency operations.

"We will be revising this estimate soon, and when we do that, the figures would be higher," Mr Diab said.

The WFP office in Dubai is mainly a technical hub. It has sent about $350,000 worth of radios, satellite phones, wireless equipment, electrical generators and electrical kits to support emergency response in North Africa.

pkannan@thenational.ae