NEW YORK, USA, 2 March 2011 – As tens of thousands flee into Egypt and Tunisia to escape the escalating conflict in Libya, UNICEF is sending relief supplies to help meet the immediate needs of women and children at risk. In support of this emergency effort, the organization is appealing for $7.2 million in additional funding.
|A mother sits in a bus at a refugee camp near the Libya-Tunisia border crossing of Ras Jdir after fleeing unrest in Libya.|
UNICEF issued the donor appeal today, in the form of an immediate-needs document, response to the violence inside Libya and the threat of a larger humanitarian crisis.
Charter flights are expected to reach Egypt and Tunisia this week carrying more than 160 metric tonnes of UNICEF aid, including hygiene kits, food and recreational supplies for affected children. UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes Louis-Georges Arsenault arrives today in Tunisia to help coordinate efforts with other aid agencies and get a better view of the situation on the ground.
Effects of violence
UNICEF staff from both neighbouring countries have already been deployed to border areas in order to assess the needs of Libyan refugees and provide them with assistance – working in tandem with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, and the Egyptian and Tunisian Red Crescent Societies.
|In Benghazi, Libya, a girl reacts as she looks at the body of her father during his funeral; he reportedly died from a gunshot wound during clashes between protesters and Libyan security forces.|
Meanwhile, a 14-member immediate-response team has been assembled and is standing by for deployment to Libya as soon as the security situation allows. In preparation for future humanitarian efforts, UNICEF is also contacting partners within Libya, including the Libyan National Red Crescent.
The aid effort comes amidst deep concern over reports that children and adolescents have been killed or injured in violence that is affecting countries in the Middle East and North Africa. UNICEF has expressed particular alarm about the safety of women and children in Libya.
|Moments after crossing into Tunisia at the Ras Jdir border point to flee unrest in Libya, a child is carried by his father.|
“No child should be exposed to any form of danger, as this could have a long-lasting effect on their survival or psychological well-being,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
Protecting vulnerable children
The first wave out of Libya has consisted mostly of men – primarily returning Egyptian and Tunisian nationals or third-country migrant workers. As the conflict continues, however, growing numbers of Libyans are fleeing the country with their families, leading to a higher proportion of vulnerable women and children.
UNICEF has urged all parties to place the highest priority on protecting children and ensuring that refugee children and families have access to emergency relief, protection and psycho-social support.
There are not yet confirmed reports of large-scale humanitarian needs within Libya, but as the conflict wears on, there are growing concerns over the availability of medical care for the injured, as well as Libyans’ access to basic services and commodities. While details of the situation in the country remain sketchy, indications so far are deeply worrying for UNICEF and other advocates of children’s rights.