Thursday, March 31, 2011

Libya: Population in Ajdabiya searching for safety

Source: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

The situation around Ajdabiya remains unstable, and the people there long for safety. Several hundred people, fearing that fighting is getting closer again, went to Benghazi today.

"It was just last night that I went back to my house in Ajdabiya, but a few hours later we heard that clashes around the city might resume soon," said a mother who returned to Benghazi this morning. "It is better for us to be here, where we will be safe."

On Sunday, 27 March, when fighting around Ajdabiya had subsided, ICRC and Libyan Red Crescent staff delivered enough lentils, oil, rice, salt, tea and sugar to 15,000 people to cover their needs for a month. They also distributed blankets, cooking sets and hygiene kits. "We are impressed with the efforts of local communities and charities in neighbouring towns and villages to provide aid for the people of Ajdabiya," said Simon Brooks, the ICRC's head of mission in Benghazi. "It is critical for us to reach people affected by the fighting, including in areas where we do not yet have access, such as Misrata."

Foreigners living and working in Ajdabiya have been able to call their families abroad with satellite telephones provided by the ICRC. "We were desperately trying to contact our families, just to let them know we are alive," said a Palestinian student after phoning family members in Lebanon.

Following an ICRC visit to some 60 people detained by the Libyan armed opposition in Benghazi recently, the organization contacted 23 families in Sirt, Tripoli, Sabha and other cities all over Libya to inform them of the whereabouts of their detained relatives. Currently, the ICRC is organizing a visit to another group of people captured during the fighting in Ajdabiya.

In Egypt, the ICRC is supporting the ongoing relief activities in Libya from its logistics base in Alexandria. So far, 430 tonnes of food and household essentials have been taken in some 30 truckloads to the ICRC warehouse in Tobruk. The food stocks, which will be kept in reserve, are sufficient to feed tens of thousands of people should the need arise.

Meals and hygiene kits at the borderIn Salloum, on the Egyptian border, ICRC staff are working in support of Egyptian Red Crescent food distributions to migrants, including women and children, who are unable to return to their home countries owing to the armed conflict or for other reasons.

At Choucha camp, on the Tunisian border, some 5,000 cooked meals are being served on a daily basis by the Tunisian Red Crescent with support from the ICRC and from ordinary Tunisians, who have donated oil, grain, rice and other ingredients. Since the beginning of the crisis, the ICRC has also distributed blankets and jerrycans, and over 20,000 hygiene kits containing items such as soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, to meet the basic needs of stranded people.

The ICRC has installed a water distribution system and four blocks of showers at Choucha camp to improve hygiene conditions. It has also provided Bourguiba hospital, in the city of Sfax, where patients from Libya are referred, with medical supplies for the treatment of up to 100 war casualties.

Since the beginning of the crisis, the ICRC and the Tunisian Red Crescent have arranged for over 30,000 telephone calls to be made by nationals of some 30 countries to reassure worried relatives or to contact their countries' embassies. On the Egyptian side, over 900 calls have been made since beginning of March, and the ICRC continues to take identity pictures to facilitate consular paperwork for onward travel.