Libya: Misrata is difficult to access. Humanitarian assessment finds people in need of medical supplies

16 July, 2011
Third Country Nationals (TCN), most of whom are from Niger, prepare to board the IOM-chartered ship, Red Star I, in Misrata on April 27, 2011. It is estimated that 6,000-10,000 TCNs have been stuck in Misrata as fighting between Ghaddafi forces and revolutionaries raged on. Credit: IOM/Nicole Tung
Third Country Nationals (TCN), most of whom are from Niger, prepare to board the IOM-chartered ship, Red Star I, in Misrata on April 27, 2011. It is estimated that 6,000-10,000 TCNs have been stuck in Misrata as fighting between Ghaddafi forces and revolutionaries raged on. Credit: IOM/Nicole Tung

The United Nations completed its second inter-agency humanitarian assessment mission to the Libyan port city of Misrata on 14 July, which has seen some of the worst fighting over the past months. Though aspects of normalcy have returned to Misrata, fighting continues in the area and the city remains exposed to intermittent rocket attacks. With an estimated pre-conflict population of 517,000 people, Misrata – Libya’s third city - is situated 210 km to the east of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast, and can currently only be accessed by sea.

The UN inter-agency mission, including OCHA, WFP, UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO, the UN Mine Action Office and UNFPA, assessed security and urgent humanitarian needs over four days, including food, health, water, sanitation, hygiene, shelter.

Mission members noted that some shops and markets have now re-opened. However, community leaders told the UN team that rising food prices, a shortage of supplies, and an acute lack of cash were preventing the majority of people from buying enough food. Mission members found that large quantities of explosive remnants of war (ERW) remain in Misrata. Community leaders also said there is a 15 km minefield between the coastal towns of Misrata and Zlitan, which they reported had killed two civilians and injured 30 others.

According to WHO, immediate health needs are very serious in Misrata and throughout Libya due to interruptions to the supply of life-saving medicines and medical supplies. WHO is particularly concerned about access to vaccines for children throughout Libya. There is also a shortage of health professionals, including nurses, midwives, and other hospital staff.

WFP expressed concern regarding humanitarian access to the city. “The only way we can reach the population is by sea”, explained WFP’s Azhar Mehdi Salih. “The road from Benghazi to Misrata is too dangerous to use due to the ongoing fighting”. WFP has distributed 2,634 metric tons of food in Misrata to 125,000 people since April.

UNHCR is assessing the extent of shelter damage and is looking at how homes can be rebuilt.

Misrata’s main street had come under heavy bombardment during the past months. The IOM mission to Misrata on 11 July also conducted an assessment of the camp hosting migrants. The assessment found that additional tents are urgently needed.

Protracted fighting in and around Misrata has also exposed children to risks associated with armed conflict. UNICEF has identified an urgent need for psychosocial support for children and is working to create child friendly spaces in which children can play safely, learn and express themselves. IOM continues to evacuate third country nationals from Misrata by boat. 232 migrants left on 11 July, bringing the total evacuated to nearly 7,900 since April.

UN agencies are coordinating with international NGOs in the Misrata area. The Misrata Inter-Agency Humanitarian Hub was established a month ago to provide support on logistics, mapping, and coordination and to provide security advice to aid workers in Misrata. It is run by ACTED, with CESVI and Mercy Corps.

At a briefing to Member States in New York on 12 July, Humanitarian Coordinator Panos Moumtzis noted that security concerns guide the planning of all missions to Libya. Underscoring the need for regular access to all communities affected by the conflict in Libya, he confirmed that a revised appeal would be released in September.

More>> OCHA Situation Report #49

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