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WFP Responds to Humanitarian Crisis on Libya's Borders

Fleeing violence in Libya, men, women and children are crossing the border into Tunisia.

(Copyright: WFP/Abeer Etefa)

In response to the ongoing crisis in North Africa, WFP is launching a US$ 39.2 million emergency operation to provide food assistance to 1.06 million people. The food will go to vulnerable populations in Libya, and to people fleeing across borders into Tunisia and Egypt. Get operational update

ROME -- WFP is calling for safe humanitarian access to Libya so that food can be provided to address the needs of those people – especially women and children – who may need assistance.

“We urgently call for safe humanitarian access to Libya,” said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, after a WFP-chartered ship carrying food to Libya was forced to turn back amid security concerns. “We are exploring every possible humanitarian corridor to be prepared in case needs escalate,” Sheeran added. 

WFP has launched a regional emergency operation that aims to provide food assistance to vulnerable populations in Libya, and to people fleeing across borders into Tunisia and Egypt. A total of 1.06 million people are targeted over a 3-month period.

Ship forced to turn back

A ship carrying food aid was forced to turn back last week amidst security concerns. The ship, currently in Malta, is expected to set sail again this week.

Prepositioning supplies

Meanwhile, the UN food agency is mobilising food for the hungry – delivering food assistance to Libya’s borders with Egypt and Tunisia and pre-positioning supplies for use inside the country.
WFP High Energy Biscuits are already being distributed at crossing points on the Libya-Tunisa border and more food is on the way for the people fleeing violence in Libya.

“Standing on the Libya border with tens of thousands fleeing violence I realized that unless the world acts we may be facing an historic human tragedy,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran who traveled to the Tunisia-Libya border last week to meet local authorities, aid organisations, and people who have fled violence.

More than 110,000 people have crossed into Tunisia in the past week, and many of the arrivals say they have had limited access to food during the journey from their homes and workplaces in Libya.

“Most have been travelling for three or four days. They are walking and have had nothing to eat for up to 48 hours,”  said WFP’s spokeswoman Abeer Etefa, who is at the Tunisian-Libyan border. “Local communities are showing great generosity and solidarity, providing the people who arrive with food and other supplies.”