Humanitarian crisis in Misrata worsening: Red Cross

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The humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating in besieged Misrata, Libya's third city, and could turn critical, the Red Cross warned Friday.

"Hundreds of thousands of civilians in Misrata have been caught up in ongoing fighting for seven weeks now," the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement, referring to the rebel-held western city.

"The humanitarian situation could rapidly deteriorate further and the lack of basic services such as water, electricity, food and medical care could turn critical," warned Simon Brooks, ICRC head of mission in Benghazi.

Brooks said the main water pipe to the city was cut and people were now accessing water from "local wells and on the desalination plant that was until recently used to produce water for industrial purposes."

"The scarcity of fuel is affecting the energy supply for essential infrastructure and for domestic use," said Brooks.

"The health-care situation has deteriorated, with reported increases in the numbers of wounded and killed. The main hospital in Misrata is having difficulty coping with the influx of patients and is suffering from a shortage of medicines, mainly those used for chronic diseases."

The ICRC, which has access to Misrata from both the rebel stronghold of Benghazi as well as Tripoli, is stepping up its operational response there.

"In the past two days, an ICRC team has distributed three cubic metres of medical supplies to Al Hikma Hospital," the statement said.

"In addition, 150 hygiene kits, 20 cubic metres of food and 8,000 litres of water have been handed over to the Libyan Red Crescent Society and distributed in cooperation with their volunteers."

© 2011 AFP

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