The ICRC has now consolidated its presence in the west of Libya, where it plans to visit detainees and help medical staff to cope with war-wounded patients.
On 11 April, the ICRC was given authorization to establish a permanent presence in Tripoli, A team of four staff specializing in health matters, detention-related activities and logistics arrived in the Libyan capital yesterday evening by road from Tunisia. Following the arrival in Misrata on 8 April of an ICRC-chartered ship carrying aid, a second ICRC ship loaded with medical supplies is expected to dock in Misrata in the coming days if the security situation permits.
"Now that our specialists have arrived, we will go back to Misrata and Zawiyah but we will also start working in other areas," said Jean-Michel Monod, who heads the ICRC team in Tripoli. "We need to see and talk to those affected and respond directly to their needs. Having the support of all the parties will certainly help us to achieve this aim."
The city of Misrata continues to be the scene of fighting. The ICRC ship that docked there on 8 April delivered enough medical supplies to treat 300 patients with weapon-related injuries. Together with Libyan Red Crescent personnel, ICRC staff toured the streets in Misrata to assess the need for humanitarian aid. More than 6,500 stranded foreign nationals were living in difficult conditions in the vicinity of the port in tents and under tarpaulins, waiting for boats to take them out of the city. "We don't want you to bring us food, we don't want water, we don't want any assistance, we just want to leave this place," said one of them. The ICRC has informed specialized humanitarian organizations about the situation and enlisted their help in arranging for the evacuation of these people. Around a thousand have left since then.
ICRC staff also collected more than 180 "safe and well" messages from foreign nationals in Misrata and contacted their families abroad, with the help of Libyan Red Crescent volunteers, to give them news of their loved ones.
Assistance for internally displaced persons
Thousands of people have been displaced to the eastern towns of Tobruk, Daran, Al Beyda and Al Marj. On 14 April, the ICRC started distributing food and other items to 18,000 people in those towns in cooperation with the Libyan Red Crescent, the municipal councils and the Committee for Humanitarian Aid and Relief.
Civilians are still bearing the brunt of the dangerous and volatile situation. Fighting continues around Ajdabiya and Brega, forcing thousands of families to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. "We had to flee our house here in Ajdabiya and go to Benghazi because we do not feel safe, and the situation is very difficult for us," said Fatma to the ICRC team that visited Ajdabiya a few days ago. "I came back today to pick up our personal belongings and go back to Benghazi, but we don’t know when we'll be able to return here."
In the past month, the ICRC has visited more than 150 detainees in four places of detention in Benghazi. ICRC staff have contacted families in different parts of the country to inform them about the whereabouts of their detained relatives and convey "safe and well" messages. The ICRC has also distributed clothes and hygiene kits to around 90 detainees.
Visiting detainees held in connection with the ongoing conflict remains one of the ICRC's priorities in Libya. "The aim of our visits to detainees is to monitor the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive, and to give them the opportunity to contact their families in Libya and abroad," explained Samuel Emonet, the ICRC delegate in charge of the organization's detainee-welfare activities in the country. "Our findings will be shared directly and confidentially with the detaining authorities, in accordance with our standard practice."
Providing supplies needed to repair electricity and water networks
Since the beginning of the fighting in eastern Libya, the electricity, water and sewage networks have suffered only relatively light damage. Nevertheless, the consequences for civilians have been considerable.
When cables were cut and networks of water pipes damaged in various places between Benghazi and Ras Lanouf, major cities like Ajdabiya and smaller towns and villages were deprived of electricity and water for several days at a time. Electricity cuts hamper the functioning of large water-treatment plants and of hospitals, which depend on generators.
The ICRC has provided the General Electricity Company of Libya and the Benghazi Water and Sewage Authority with basic supplies needed to repair the low-tension electricity network and the water network so that thousands of people will continue to have water and electricity.
Raising awareness of the risks of weapon contamination
Unexploded and abandoned ordnance scattered over areas where fighting has taken place represent a major hazard for the civilian population. Two children, 10 and 11 years old, were recently severely injured by exploding devices. "We visited the hospital in Benghazi and were informed that the two boys, one of whom lost his eye and the other his leg, were treated there," said Srdjan Jovanovic, an ICRC weapon contamination specialist. "Raising awareness among civilians of the danger of such devices is an action that urgently needs to be taken to avoid more such incidents."
An assessment of weapon-contaminated areas in Benghazi, Baida and Ajdabiya has already been completed. Together with the Libyan Red Crescent, the ICRC is now starting an awareness-raising campaign to warn of the danger of unexploded ordnance. The ICRC also intends to send a specialized team to provide technical support for clearing the worst-affected areas.
On the Egyptian border
The ICRC continues to work with the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, which is in charge of distributing the bulk of the food and water provided for those stranded along the border.
Since the onset of this crisis, the ICRC has enabled 1,600 people on the Egyptian border to call their families. In addition, the ICRC has been helping thousands of people who are neither Egyptian nor Libyan without valid travel documents to obtain the papers needed to be repatriated.
Since the beginning of the crisis, Egypt has been the only channel through which relief supplies for ICRC emergency operations in eastern Libya have transited. A total of 912 tonnes of food and other items have reached Benghazi through Egypt so far.
On the Tunisian border
The ICRC is continuing to assist around 8,000 people in Choucha camp:
An average of 9,000 cooked meals are being served twice a day by the Tunisian Red Crescent, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the ICRC.
38,345 kits of household essentials (blankets, jerrycans, soap, etc.) have been distributed.
40,000 telephone calls have been made to re-establish contact between family members.
Potable water is being provided for the entire camp population. The ICRC is extending and upgrading the water network to cope with high demand.
Thousands of recycled blankets have been distributed.
For further information, please contact:
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Benghazi, tel: +870 772 390 124
Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 251 93 02