While swift and decisive global action saved thousands of lives in Libya, the humanitarian situation is deteriorating and requires concerted efforts by the United Nations and the international community, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed today at a meeting in Egypt.
“Within Libya itself, the picture is especially grave,” Mr. Ban told the Cairo Conference on Libya, which he co-convened with the League of Arab States to discuss the ongoing fighting in the North African nation pitting Government forces against rebels seeking the ouster of Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi.
He reported that in the cities of Misrata, Brega and Zintan, where the fighting has been particularly intense, access to basic services and basic commodities such as food, water and health care has been largely cut off.
It is estimated that nearly half a million people have left Libya since the conflict began earlier this year. Many people remain stranded at camps and transit points in neighbouring countries.
Mr. Ban said he intends to establish an international presence in the capital, Tripoli, as soon as possible, and that UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos may visit the city in light of the dire situation.
“I have also called on all neighbouring countries to keep their borders open to receive those fleeing the conflict,” he said. “We must be careful not to allow large concentrations of refugees awaiting evacuation to build up along the border, particularly given the fragility of the situation in the region.”
The fighting in Libya started out as protests against the Qadhafi regime, and is part of a broader pro-democracy movement across North Africa and the Middle East that has led to the downfall of long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.
Stressing that early planning and preparations are essential, Mr. Ban said that, in tandem with its diplomatic efforts, the UN has launched a process of contingency planning to help the Libyan people rebuild their future.
“We must expect this work to span the full range of peacemaking, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction,” he stated. “This complex process will require a concerted effort from the United Nations. It is essential for the international community to remain engaged and united.
“We must continue to speak with one voice; we must continue to work with patience and determination in common cause on behalf of the Libyan people,” he said, echoing the comments he made to the meeting of the International Contact Group on Libya, which took place yesterday in Doha, Qatar.