x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

UN expects aid supply shortages in Libya

Violent crackdown in Libya leads UN to raise concerns about shortages in aid supplies

NEW YORK // The UN's aid chief has warned of shortages of food, petrol and medical supplies in Libya, particularly in and around the capital, Tripoli, where the country's leader, Muammar Qaddafi, is battling to hold on to power.

The emergency relief coordinator said life in rebel-held Benghazi and much of eastern Libya had "returned to almost normal" and that urgently-needed medical supplies and petrol were crossing via the Egyptian border.

Valerie Amos, The UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said tens of thousands of people had fled Libya but warned that many are unable to escape from government-held areas and faced an ongoing violent crackdown.

"The primary concern is getting access to Tripoli and the neighbouring area where the security situation is extremely volatile," Ms Amos said yesterday. "We are seeing terrible photographs on our television screens as people are fleeing - but we need to have proper sense of what the needs are."

The UN's refugee agency estimated that some 110,000 people - mostly Tunisians and Egyptians - had exited Libya so far and that "more arrive by the hour". António Guterres, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, voiced concern for the many economic migrants feared trapped in Libya.

While Western nations have evacuated nationals from Libya, the International Organization for Migration estimates there are some 1.5 million "irregular migrant workers" in Libya from Iraq, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and other parts of Asia and Africa.

"There are no planes and boats to evacuate people originating from war-torn or very poor countries. Many of these people feel targeted and afraid and have no resources," Mr Guterres said yesterday. "Africans seem to be particularly at risk as they are being associated with foreign mercenaries."

The head of the World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran, was due to arrive in Tunisia this morning, where more than 40,000 people have crossed the Libyan border this past week - often hungry after travelling without food.

jreinl@thenational.ae