UNHCR Press Release: Humanitarian aid for displaced families west of Tripoli

Tunis, 18 August 2014 – The UN Refugee Agency through its partner organizations International Medical Corps (IMC) and Taher Al Zawia Organization sent on Saturday a two trucks convoy with humanitarian aid from Tunisia into Libya, the first one since the beginning of the current crisis. Several thousand people recently displaced by on-going fighting in and around Tripoli received urgently needed medical supplies and relief items including blankets, sleeping mats and baby diapers. The distribution was still ongoing on Monday.

The trucks departed the city of Medenine in southeastern Tunisia before crossing the Ras Jedir border and headed to Zawiya, a town about 45 km west of Tripoli, where some 2,000 families displaced by on-going fighting in the capital and are living in the city’s outskirts in extremely difficult conditions. The same day, a second convoy from IMC’s stockpiles in Libya delivered essential medicines and medical supplies to the displaced community. Relief items were distributed by Taher Al Zawia Organization.

“This weekend’s operation is crucial and, we hope, paves the way for other humanitarian aid to reach affected populations who are stranded and in dire need of assistance”, said Saado Quol UNHCR’s Acting Chief of Mission in Libya.

UNHCR has a warehouse in Tripoli with stockpiles of critical relief items but it is currently unable to access it due to on-going fighting in the surroundings areas.

The deteriorating security situation in Libya has severely hampered UNHCR’s operations in Tripoli and Benghazi since early July, including the provision of assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers and other displaced civilians.

Now in its fifth week of conflict, Tripoli is facing severe fuel shortages and power outages resulting in crippling disruptions to the distribution of basic goods and services, including water, food, supplies and banking.

According to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Cresent (IFRC), at least 2 million people may be at risk of food shortage if the fighting continues in Libya. The departure of foreign medical staff from Libya has exacerbated current problems as foreigners comprise almost 80% of medical service personnel.

UNHCR, through its partner the International Medical Corps, has provided essential medicines and other core relief items to several hospitals near the fighting, but is also extremely concerned about the situation of asylum seekers and migrants alike in detention centres. During the first week of August, hygiene kits were provided to persons rescued at sea in several detention centres in Al- Khums, Misrata and Zliten. Relief items and medical assistance were also distributed by IMC to evacuees who left areas heavily hit by missiles and rockets in Tripoli.

Since airport clashes on 13 July, the violence has rapidly escalated and spread throughout Tripoli and into some western suburbs. The Crisis Committee of the Tripoli City Council estimates that some 7,240 families (around 43,500 individuals) are displaced as a result of four weeks of constant fighting in the Libyan capital. Some sources estimate that actual displacement figures may be significantly higher. Although many families have sought shelter with friends and relatives in neighbouring cities, some have nowhere to go and are gathered in the woods and open areas outside of Tripoli.

“These people cannot go further to the west as the road is increasingly unsafe, and they cannot go back to the east. They are in urgent need of assistance, and despite the challenges, we need to be able to respond to the needs of affected civilians”, said Quol.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

In Tunisia, Dunnapar Fern Tilakamonkul on mobile +216 58 33 51 23
In Tunisia, Dalia Al Achi on mobile +216 58 33 51 18