Libya: UN Official Arrives in Tripoli to Set Up Humanitarian Operations

TRIPOLI–(ENEWSPF)–2 September 2011.  

WFP convoy with staple food commodities including wheat flour, pasta, vegetable oil and tomato paste on the way to the Libyan capital for distribution by the Libyan Red Crescent (LRC)

A senior United Nations official has arrived in Libya accompanied by an inter-agency humanitarian team to re-establish the UN presence in the capital, Tripoli, where the situation remains fragile, with essential services having been disrupted by the recent conflict.

“It is critical to ensure an immediate and effective UN presence on the ground to help identify and assist vulnerable people who have been particularly affected by the conflict and the disruption of services,” said Panos Moumtzis, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, who arrived in Tripoli yesterday.

“We are here with a strong team of professionals, who will work closely in support of local partners to speedily assist them,” he said, stressing his particular concern over humanitarian needs in places where fighting has occurred.

The mission will assess and provide assistance in restoring the water supply in Tripoli and surrounding areas, look into the protection of civilians and assess the food situation. The team includes officials from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Given the evolving situation in Libya, there are still concerns about pockets of vulnerable people who lack safe water, OCHA said in a press release. UNICEF, in coordination with Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), continues to procure and distribute bottled drinking water to residents. The bottled water distribution effort aims to reach 500,000 people in two weeks.

There no piped water running in Tripoli due to lack of fuel and the malfunctioning of the pumping system 1,000 kilometres south of the city. The area is inaccessible due to insecurity. UNICEF continues to provide technical support to the NTC in its efforts to re-establish running water for domestic use.

On the protection of civilians, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has voiced concern over the fate of migrants from sub-Saharan African countries and other vulnerable foreigners who want to leave the country but have been unable to do so. An IOM chartered boat left Tripoli late on Wednesday with migrants on board, but despite efforts to organize their safe evacuation, IOM has not been able to reach many of them.

Meanwhile, WFP has dispatched around 600 metric tons of food to Tripoli for distribution by the Libyan Red Crescent to more than 35,500 conflict-affected and displaced people for one month. At the request of the NTC, WFP is also procuring 250,000 tons of fuel for life-saving humanitarian work for one month, according to OCHA.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it will ensure the provision of essential medicines, vaccines and other medical supplies for the whole of the country after a UN sanctions committee in mid-August authorized the release of €100 million ($142 million). A list of priority items has been developed by WHO in collaboration with Libyan authorities.