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Libya: ICRC makes urgent call for access to wounded

24-03-2011 Operational Update No 01/11

There is no respite for civilians living in battle zones in Libya. Amid air strikes by international forces, heavy fighting continues between government troops and the armed opposition at various locations. Access for humanitarian aid agencies remains restricted in most parts of the country.

"It's unclear how civilians are faring in the areas affected by hostilities," said Simon Brooks, head of the ICRC mission in Libya. "And that's a source of great concern to us. We're getting alarming reports from cities like Ajdabiya and Misrata, where the conflict has been raging for weeks now." Brooks added that doctors in those cities were struggling under extremely difficult conditions to keep patients alive.

The ICRC has called on everyone involved in the fighting to facilitate humanitarian aid. Boris Michel, who heads the organization's operations in northern and western Africa, described the need as urgent. "Humanitarian organizations need safe access to war-affected areas and medical personnel and ambulances have to be allowed to reach the wounded."

Medical kits

Yesterday, five more ICRC expatriate staff reached Benghazi to join the team that had returned to that city on 18 March. In recent days, delegates have been allowed to visit two wounded government soldiers held by the opposition. In a village north of Ajdabiya close to the fighting, ICRC staff distributed first-aid and dressing kits to help the local population treat the wounded.

Seven trucks have delivered 145 tonnes of rice, sugar, oil, lentils and salt to the eastern city of Tobruk. This will serve as a reserve capable of feeding tens of thousands of people should the need arise.

Together with the Libyan Red Crescent, the ICRC organized the safe transfer of a group of more than 500 foreign nationals and their families from Benghazi to the Egyptian border.

Over 27,000 phone calls restore family links

The ICRC continues to help people at the Egyptian and Tunisian borders contact their worried families. Among the tens of thousands of people who have arrived since February at the Tunisian border, many have not had the means to get in touch with their loved ones at home. Since the crisis began, the ICRC has worked closely with the Tunisian Red Crescent to provide free phone service, and some 27,000 phone calls have been made by nationals of 30 countries to reassure worried relatives or contact their countries' embassies. On the Egyptian border, over 3,000 stranded workers who fled Libya have been photographed in recent weeks to facilitate consular paperwork for onward travel.

The ICRC is working alongside the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to support the efforts of the Egyptian and Tunisian Red Crescent Societies, which are providing essential services for people arriving from Libya. In the Choucha camp on the Tunisian border, ICRC staff and personnel from the National Water Distribution Utility have set up a water-distribution system capable of supplying over 12,000 people. Fifty latrines have also been installed.

Some 5,800 cooked meals are being served daily by the Tunisian Red Crescent, with support from the ICRC and also from average Tunisians, who are donating oil, cereals, rice and other ingredients.

For further information, please contact:
Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 2458  or  +41 79 217 3224
Simon Brooks, ICRC Benghazi: +87 077 239 0114  or  +218 92 291 9392


Photos

Al Jalaa Hospital, Benghazi, March 2011. ICRC nurse Inger Staff attending an operation performed by Libyan doctors.  

Al Jalaa Hospital, Benghazi, March 2011. ICRC nurse Inger Staff attending an operation performed by Libyan doctors.
© ICRC / Getty Images / Gratiane De Moustier / v-p-ly-e-00017

Al Jalaa Hospital, Benghazi. A patient in the trauma ward is treated by Libyan nurses and a Libyan doctor. 

Al Jalaa Hospital, Benghazi. A patient in the trauma ward is treated by Libyan nurses and a Libyan doctor.
© ICRC / Getty Images / Gratiane De Moustier / v-p-ly-e-00013

Choucha camp, 7 km from Ras Jedir, Tunisian border. People fleeing the violence in Libya line up to be registered by Tunisian Red Crescent volunteers and call their families. 

Choucha camp, 7 km from Ras Jedir, Tunisian border. People fleeing the violence in Libya line up to be registered by Tunisian Red Crescent volunteers and call their families.
© ICRC / S. Beltifa / v-p-tn-e-00186