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Libya: aid for 10,000 people near Sirte

29-09-2011 Operational Update

In recent days, thousands of people have been fleeing their homes in the combat zone of Sirte, heading towards the desert or nearby villages to the east and to the west. The ICRC and the Libyan Red Crescent have stepped up their aid effort.

"Civilians fleeing Sirte report that water and electricity in the city are cut most of the time, food reserves are very low and access to health care is very difficult," said Georges Comninos, the head of the ICRC delegation in Tripoli. "We are also hearing about severe shortages of medical supplies in the hospital. We are increasingly concerned about the humanitarian situation there."

The ICRC is stepping up its efforts to obtain access to Sirte as rapidly as possible. It has a ship loaded with medical and relief supplies that is ready to leave from the port of Misrata.

Around 3,000 displaced people, including many children, women and elderly people, are dispersed in a desert area between Sirte and Harawa, some 30 kilometres east of Sirte. "These people don't want to go any further. Despite very difficult living conditions, they want to remain as close as possible to their houses," said Patrick Schwaerzler, the head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Benghazi, who participated in a mission to the area. "They have no proper toilets or showers, and they do not have enough drinking water. Diarrhoea and fever are spreading. No health care is reaching them." On 26 September, water and hygiene items were distributed to 1,200 of the displaced. More assistance is needed for the people who have arrived in the area in the meantime.

In the village of Harawa, 20 kilometres further east, the situation is hardly better. In cooperation with the Libyan Red Crescent, the ICRC has delivered water and hygiene items to 6,600 people displaced from Sirte and to the residents hosting them. Some 57,000 jars of baby food are also being distributed in the area.

About 100 kilometres to the west of Sirte, hundreds of displaced people have taken refuge in the village of Washka, joining others who came from Misrata and Tamina. They have mostly been accommodated in schools and vacant houses. On 27 September, Libyan Red Crescent volunteers and ICRC staff distributed food, kitchen sets, hygiene items and diapers to 850 people in the village. Similar items were distributed to about 700 people displaced from Sirte, Tawargha and Tamina in Wadi Marah, a village deep in the desert about 170 kilometres south-east of Misrata.

Displaced people in Washka and Wadi Marah, particularly children and pregnant women, are also in urgent need of access to primary health care and potable water.

Once again, the ICRC reminds those fighting on the ground in Libya as well as NATO forces of their obligations under international humanitarian law. In particular, they must at all times protect civilians and guarantee safe access for health-care and humanitarian personnel.

For further information, please contact:
Soaade Messoudi, ICRC Tripoli, tel: +218 913 066 198
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Benghazi, tel: +870 772 390 124 (ext. 250) or +218 9 923 304 560
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 20 11 or +41 79 536 92 50


Photos

Washka, 100 km west of Sirte, Libya. Staff unload supplies before an ICRC/Libyan Red Crescent distribution operation. 

Washka, 100 km west of Sirte, Libya. Staff unload supplies before an ICRC/Libyan Red Crescent distribution operation.
© ICRC

Washka, 100 km west of Sirte, Libya. Libyan Red Crescent volunteers prepare supplies for distribution. 

Washka, 100 km west of Sirte, Libya. Libyan Red Crescent volunteers prepare supplies for distribution.
© ICRC

Washka, 100 km west of Sirte, Libya. A child receives food during an ICRC/Libyan Red Crescent distribution operation. 

Washka, 100 km west of Sirte, Libya. A child receives food during an ICRC/Libyan Red Crescent distribution operation.
© ICRC

Wadi Marah, 170 km south-east of Misrata, Libya. Libyan Red Crescent volunteers unload supplies from trucks before an ICRC/Libyan Red Crescent distribution operation. 

Wadi Marah, 170 km south-east of Misrata, Libya. Libyan Red Crescent volunteers unload supplies from trucks before an ICRC/Libyan Red Crescent distribution operation.
© ICRC