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Libya: ICRC calls for safe humanitarian access to west of country

28-02-2011 News Release 11/45

Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is calling for immediate and safe access to western Libya following two weeks of unrest in the country.

"This crisis has been going on for 14 days. It's high time, and absolutely vital, that the needs of people affected are met. We call on everyone taking part in the violence to respect the right of the wounded and sick to seek medical care, and to ensure that humanitarian assistance is able to reach those in need," said the ICRC's director general, Yves Daccord, today.

"Right now, the situation is far too unstable and insecure to enable much-needed help to enter western parts of the country," he added. "Health and aid workers must be allowed to do their jobs safely. Patients must not be attacked, and ambulances and hospitals must not be misused. It's a matter of life and death."

The ICRC has an emergency team that includes surgeons and nurses, as well as medical supplies, on the Tunisian border waiting to enter western Libya as soon as security conditions permit. Another emergency team, which also includes medical staff, is already at work in hospitals in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

"We're very impressed by the professionalism of the Libyan medical staff and the way in which they dealt with the influx of injuries despite limited resources. There are still needs in terms of medical supplies and there is also a shortage of nurses," said ICRC surgeon Marco Baldan, who visited Al Jalaa Hospital, which admitted the bulk of the estimated 2,000 people who were wounded in the city. The ICRC now has nine delegates in Benghazi and is coordinating its efforts closely with those of the Libyan Red Crescent, which has been working tirelessly to assist victims of the violence.

On the Tunisian side of the border, the ICRC has helped around 750 people who fled Libya to contact their families in recent days. Meanwhile, volunteers and staff from the Tunisian Red Crescent have been working around the clock to help those who have crossed into their country. On the Egyptian side, the ICRC also continues to support the country's Red Crescent society.

So far, in total, the ICRC has mobilized around 50 emergency specialists to respond to the diverse needs arising from the unrest.

For further information, please contact:
Hicham Hassan (English, Arabic, French), ICRC Benghazi, tel: +20 1 87 42 43 44
Mohamed Ben Ahmed (French, Arabic), ICRC Tunis, tel: +216 98 432 393
Biljana Milosevic (English), ICRC Tunis, tel: +216 20 33 62 38
Mohammad Sultan (English, Arabic), ICRC Cairo, tel: +20 1 05 05 33 10
Anna Nelson (English, French), ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 20 63  or  +41 79 217 3264


To preview and download the latest ICRC video footage in broadcast quality,  go to


People fleeing the violence in Libya wait for transportation at the Libya and Tunisian border crossing of Ras Jdir. 

People fleeing the violence in Libya wait for transportation at the Libya and Tunisian border crossing of Ras Jdir.
© Reuters / Zohra Bensemra / RTR2J5MP