A United Nations humanitarian assessment mission to the Libyan port city of Misrata has found that high food prices, lack of money and shortages of medical supplies and other essential items have left residents in need of continued assistance.
Misrata has seen some of the heaviest fighting between Government forces and the armed opposition bidding to oust the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi. The Libyan uprising started in February following similar mass protests in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries across North Africa and the Middle East.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in press release that although some normalcy had returned to Misrata, the city itself is still surrounded by Government forces and exposed to sporadic rocket attacks.
The four-day humanitarian mission, the second one to the city so far, assessed the population’s need for food, health, water, sanitation, hygiene and shelter, with members noting that some shops and markets had reopened. Community leaders told the UN team that people did not have enough to eat due to rising food prices, a shortage of supplies, and a lack of cash.
The mission found that large quantities of explosive remnants of war remain in Misrata, with local leaders saying that there is a 15-kilometre minefield between Misrata and Zlitan town, which they said had killed two civilians and injured 30 others.
According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the interruption of the delivery of supplies of life-saving medicines and other medical items had caused acute shortages throughout Libya. WHO was particularly concerned over the lack of children’s vaccines.
“The only way we can reach the population is by sea,” said Azhar Mehdi Salih of the UN World Food Programme (WFP). “The road from Benghazi to Misrata is too dangerous due to the ongoing fighting,” he said. WFP has distributed 2,634 tons of food to 125,000 people in Misrata since April.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is assessing the extent of the destruction of homes in Misrata and considering helping with some reconstruction.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) identified an urgent need for psycho-social support for children and is working to create child-friendly spaces where they can play safely, learn and express themselves.
The Misrata Inter-Agency Humanitarian Hub, which was established a month ago, is providing logistical support, mapping, and humanitarian coordination. The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) also participated in the assessment mission.