Unless a major effort is undertaken to replenish food stocks in Libya the country is at risk of a major food crisis within the next two months, a senior United Nations official warned today.
Daly Belgasami of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said that the disruption of port activities, coupled with the lack of fuel and hard currency, is making it difficult for the country to import enough food.
“We are really concerned about the food security of the population,” Mr. Belgasami, WFP’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, told a news conference in Geneva, stressing the need to immediately increase the flow of commercial goods.
He said an assessment team found that the population is at risk of “full-blown food security crisis” within 45 days or 60 days if steps are not taken to immediately increase the flow of commercial goods.
“We need to replenish stocks of food and inputs for local production, especially animal feed, and maintain social safety nets, including food distribution,” he stated.
There are some 2.5 million third-country nationals in Libya, some 500,000 of whom have already left the country amid the fighting that erupted earlier this year between Government forces and rebels seeking the ouster of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi.
Mr. Belgasami noted that the departure of these foreigners has impacted heavily on everything inside Libya, including food supplies since many of them worked in food production such as in bakeries.
“The longer the conflict lasts, the more likely that the number of those in need of food assistance will increase,” WFP warned in a statement issued earlier this week.
The agency has embarked on a three-month, $42 million emergency operation that will provide food assistance to more than 1 million people in Libya and neighbouring countries. So far it has only received 50 per cent of those funds.
Overall, UN agencies and their partners are seeking $310 million to cover assistance for a three-month period in areas such as food security, nutrition, health care, water and sanitation, and shelter. Some $129 million has been received and $1.4 million pledged to date.
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.
In New York, members of the UN Security Council discussed the ongoing crisis in Libya and received an update today from Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe.
“We are dismayed with the situation,” Ambassador Néstor Osorio of Colombia, which holds the Council’s rotating monthly presidency, told reporters after the closed-door session. “We have not seen real steps towards a political solution.”
Noting the persistence of violence and the continuation of attacks by the Government on civilians, Council members renewed their call for a political solution and for the violence to stop, said Mr. Osorio.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, is on his way to the rebel-held city of Benghazi. The Council hopes to hearing a briefing from him when he is back in New York next week, the President said.