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WFP Responds To Humanitarian Crisis In North Africa

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. 

ROME -- A convoy of trucks carrying WFP food rations reached the eastern port of Benghazi on Wednesday, bringing 70 metric tons of fortified date bars produced in Egypt. The convoy arrived on the same day that a WFP-chartered ship also finally reached the port, carrying enough wheat flour to feed 94,000 people for a month. The ship turned back last Thursday en route to Benghazi amid security concerns.

The two deliveries of food assistance are the first by a UN agency since the crisis began in Libya. 

WFP took part in a joint UN mission to Benghazi in recent days to assess food and other humanitarian needs. The mission found that replenishing stocks will be necessary as the country is heavily dependent on imported food.

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Mobilising food

WFP is mobilising food for the hungry as part of a US$39.2-million emergency operation designed to provide food assistance to more than one million people (1,060,000) in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia over three months.

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran has called 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.

Last week, a WFP-chartered ship carrying food to Libya was forced to turn back amid security concerns. It set sail again from Malta on Tuesday and arrived Wednesday.

Sheeran traveled to the region last week to assess the situation. At the Tunisia-Libya border, she met local authorities, aid organisations, and people who have fled violence. Read story

Distributions on borders

More than 110,000 people have crossed into Tunisia since February 20, and many of the arrivals say they have had limited access to food during the journey from their homes and workplaces in Libya.

WFP High Energy Biscuits are already being distributed at crossing points on the Libya-Tunisa border and on the Egyptian border locally-produced date bars are being distributed. More food is on the way.

WFP is also offering monetary and other support to the Tunisian Red Crescent, which provides some 10,000 meals daily to the masses still stranded at the transit camp.

"The WFP team is working on the ground to build the capacity of the local actors to scale up food assistance in preparation for new arrivals to Tunisia and at the same time on the contingency planning for provision of food assistance and logistics inside Libya as soon as a safe humanitarian access is secured," said Nick Crawford, WFP's officer in charge of the Libyan-Tunisian border operations.