The head of the United Nations food aid agency said today that fighting in the Western Mountains of Libya is preventing humanitarian staff from distributing supplies and urged all parties to the conflict to observe a truce so aid workers can assess requirements.
Josette Sheeran, the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), said the agency had moved food assistance through a supply route from the Tunisian border into western Libya for distribution in areas heavily affected by the fighting by the Libyan Red Crescent and local communities.
“The supplies have reached several of the affected places, but we have not yet been able to reach the areas most affected by fighting around Yefrin and Zintan in the Western Mountains,” said Ms. Sheeran in a statement in which she warned that the food needs in that area could be immense.
“The supply route is now facing serious challenges due to insecurity in many of the areas in, addition to severe fuel shortages.”
WFP has chartered two ships to carry food assistance and other relief supplies to the besieged city of Misrata on behalf of the humanitarian community, but the port there has been coming under mortar fire attack, making it difficult to send aid in.
On 25 April, a vessel chartered by WFP came under fire while departing Misrata, Ms. Sheeran added.
The conflict in Libya erupted earlier this year following peaceful protests similar to other popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, which have led to the toppling of long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.
Ms. Sheeran’s comments echo the concerns expressed in recent days by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, who have both called for an immediate ceasefire so that humanitarian workers can reach everyone in need.