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Statement by WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran from the Libyan border

On the border of Libya and Tunisia, yesterday, I was surrounded by tens of thousands of people fleeing violence. It is clear the world must increase humanitarian action to prevent a disaster inside Libya. We call for safe humanitarian access, especially to western Libya. Cutting off food supplies must not be used as a weapon.

There are two immediate crises WFP is acting on:

  • The urgent need for food for those fleeing Libya and crossing the borders into Tunisia and Egypt;
  • The threat to food distribution systems, especially in Libya, where stocks are being depleted, and supply chains are disrupted.

I have pledged WFP’s support to partner with the Red Crescent and others to help provide food assistance to those fleeing violence and to prepare for what may be needed in the days and weeks ahead inside Libya.

In response to this regional crisis, we are launching a USD$ 39.2 million emergency operation to provide food assistance to 1.06 million people in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. We are planning for a three month emergency operation that will help shore up Egypt and Tunisian food safety nets and will also purchase food from the region to help ensure that recovery from the disruption can begin immediately.

As I visited the border area, the first airlift of 80 metric tons of high energy biscuits, flown in by WFP on Monday, were being distributed at the crossing points.  As part of our contingency planning we have also re-routed shipments of wheat and wheat flour to the Tunisian border and the Libyan port of Benghazi where it will be pre-positioned to meet immediate humanitarian needs that may arise.

WFP has a strong presence inside Libya and we are currently making assessments that will allow us to quickly direct life saving food assistance towards those who are most vulnerable. We call upon the world for immediate support for this appeal.