Top UN officials call for urgent access to Libyan areas affected by violence

6 March 2011

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations humanitarian chief on Sunday called for urgent and unimpeded access to areas of Libya affected by violence, particularly in the western part of the country.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the fighting in western Libya, which is claiming large numbers of lives and threatens even more carnage in the days ahead,” Mr. Ban's spokesperson said in a statement.

“He notes that civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence, and calls for an immediate halt to the Government's disproportionate use of force and indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets.”

Mr. Ban discussed the “increasingly troubling humanitarian situation” with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa in a telephone conversation today, in which he also called on the authorities “to uphold their responsibility to protect the country's citizens and to heed the Libyan people's legitimate aspirations to live in dignity and peace.”

The Secretary-General has appointed the former foreign minister of Jordan, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, as his Special Envoy to Libya to undertake urgent consultations with the authorities in Tripoli and in the region on the immediate humanitarian situation as well as the wider dimensions of the crisis.

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it has received reports that the western city of Misrata is under attack by Government forces and that the Libyan Red Crescent is trying to get ambulances in from the capital, Tripoli, to collect the dead and injured.

“Humanitarian organizations need urgent access now. People are injured and dying and need help immediately,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos. “I call on the authorities to provide access without delay to allow aid workers to help save lives.”

Ms. Amos travelled yesterday to the Tunisia-Libya border to review the ongoing relief effort for people fleeing Libya amid the recent violence.

Since Libyan leader Muammar Al-Qadhafi started the violent repression of protesters demanding his ouster several weeks ago, over 100,000 people, many of them migrant workers, have fled to Tunisia, and a similar number to Egypt.

OCHA said that since Libyan authorities took control of the border crossing into Tunisia, the number of people crossing has dropped to several hundred per day, compared to about 20,000 at its peak several days ago.

People crossing the border have reported that they have faced intimidation as they have tried to leave Libya. Ms. Amos stressed that freedom of movement is a fundamental human right that must be respected under all circumstances.

During her visit to the border areas, she thanked Governments, aid agencies, host families and communities in neighbouring countries, especially Tunisia and Egypt, for their support to those leaving Libya.

On Monday in Geneva, Ms. Amos will launch the regional flash appeal covering Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Niger. It will focus on the border areas, population movements, humanitarian needs, security, health, water, protection and communication, and will cover a three-month period.


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