Tens of thousands in Libya running short of food: WFP

5th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Tens of thousands of people living in Libya's western mountains region are running short of food and are increasingly dependent on food aid to survive, the World Food Programme said Tuesday.

A mission to the region by United Nations officials "has found that food security is of major concern for the people there," said Emilia Casella, spokeswoman for the UN food agency.

"People were depending entirely on food assistance for their survival," she added.

The mission travelled to Nalut, Wazin, Jadu and Zintan and "found only two cows during their entire mission, they found no sheep, no goats."

"People have been selling off their livestock or consuming their livestock," said Casella.

The mission was "really shocked there is really no trade going on, shops are closed, civils servents have not been paid since February," she described.

As a result, the people are left with a "very restrictive diet" with no access to eggs, meat or fish.

The WFP has sent 800 cubic metres of food in the region where it has reached 125,000 of the most vulnerable people.

The UN refugee agency warned in June that an aid crisis appeared to be looming in Libya and more international relief may soon be needed, as the prolonged conflict and sanctions stymie the regime's ability to deliver aid.

The international Red Cross also expressed worries about the health situation in the country, saying that a shortage of medical supplies and the departure of staff having fled the country have "created serious problems in health."

"Today we see people who can't undergo their dialysis as they are supposed to," said Paul Castella, who is the International Committee of the Red Cross' outgoing head of delegation in Libya.

In the southwestern town of Sabha, which is under Libyan government control, "the number of people dying by the lack of dialysis is higher compared to those dying of gunshots which is also increasing in the south," said Castella.

"If this trend is continuing, it might be quite dramatic. What we see today is not a catastrophe, it is extremely concerning to the ICRC," he said.

In addition, a measles epidemic has also broken out in Sabha, particularly among the nomadic Touareg.

"This is simply caused by the fact that medicines are not necessary available to fight this epidemic, but also that the staff is no longer as numerous to do a campaign to stop the epidemic," said Castella.

Meanwhile, Castella, who had just returned from Libya, would not wade into a debate on allegations of mass rapes ordered by Moamer Kadhafi's regime.

In early June, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor had spoken of evidence that Kadhafi ordered troops to attack women but a UN human rights mission which visited the country expressed doubts over these claims.

Asked for his take on the claims, Castella would only say: "We follow the situation of people affected by the conflict, including this issue but we don't have yet information to disclose on this issue."

© 2011 AFP

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