by Najwa Mekki
RAS JDIR, Tunisia, 14 March 2011 – Saida, 6, last saw her best friends before unrest in Libya began. They have no idea she and her parents are now in a camp at Ras Jdir on the Tunisia-Libya border.
|VIDEO: 10 March 2011 - UNICEF reports on the increasing number of families crossing the border into Tunisia to escape the crisis in Libya. Watch in RealPlayer|
Unfortunately, Saida is no stranger to life as a migrant. When she was barely eight months old, her mother, Samia, and father, Said, left Ethiopia – where they had been living to flee violence in Somalia – and settled in Sudan.
Two years later, the family was on the road again, this time to Libya. “We heard that you could board a boat to Europe from there, so we decided to give it a try, to look for a better future for our children,” Samia says.
But the boat to Europe never came. The family has since been making a life in Libya until fear and violence sent them packing again a few days ago.
Although the number of daily new arrivals to Ras Jdir has remained relatively low over the past few days – an average of 2,000 compared to 10,000 when the crisis started – there are more families arriving. There are 160 families to date, including 70 children.
|© UNICEF Tunisia/2011/Ramoneda|
|Two-month-old Munir and his aunt, Warda, receive assistance from|
Saida wants to go to Europe and live somewhere by the sea. For now, she spends her days at the camp, where the majority of children are under five years of age.
Also at the camp is Munir, who is just two months old. His mother died four days after giving birth to him prematurely. He reached the camp four days ago with his aunt, Warda, his father and four other relatives.
UNICEF has deployed a team of social workers and psychologists to the border to offer families and children the guidance and support they need. Munir was taken to an on-site paediatrician when he arrived, and has now been transferred to a local hospital where he is in a stable condition.
UNICEF and Save the children are training an additional team of psychologists so that a pool of qualified experts is available around the clock. UNICEF is also ramping up supplies to meet any increasing needs and provide humanitarian assistance inside Libya once access is allowed. These will cover areas in hygiene, health, sanitation, early childhood development and protection.
|© UNICEF Video|
|There are more than 160 families including 70 children seeking assistance at the Ras Jdir camp on the Tunisia-Libya border.|
Elsewhere, efforts to help the nearly 135,000 migrants who have crossed the Tunisia-Libya border to return to their country of origin continue. All Egyptians at the camp have now returned home and plans are underway to repatriate the more than 11,000 Bangladeshis in the camp.
But for other nationalities that arrived in Libya to escape conflict – like Somalis and Eritreans – there is no end in sight to the ordeal they are going through. Until other countries are willing to take them in, they are here to stay – at least for a while.