UN humanitarian chief worried over Libya access

AP News
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Posted: Feb 28, 2011 1:59 PM

The fragile security situation in and around the Libya capital of Tripoli has made it too dangerous for international aid agencies to assess the need for medicine, food and other supplies there, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said Monday.

Aid groups are particularly worried about getting medical supplies to Libyans who need them, especially with reports of government forces' violence against citizens, she said. Over the long term, Amos added, humanitarian agencies also fear that there won't enough to eat for people in a country that imports most of its food.

Amos also called on countries neighboring Libya to keep their borders open so refugees can continue to flee.

"Our primary concern is getting access to Tripoli and surrounding areas where the situation is precarious," said Amos. "We want to go in and do proper assessments of what the needs are."

The few U.N. workers who were based in Tripoli left when it became unstable.

She said that since the protests erupted in mid-February an estimated 61,000 people have fled Libya over the Egyptian border and another 40,000 people _ most of them Tunisian migrant workers _ have fled over the Tunisian border.

Libya also borders Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan.

Along with a lack of information about the situation around Tripoli, agencies have no clear information about the movement of the population inside Libya, Amos said.

But she said humanitarian work is proceeding smoothly along Libya's eastern border with Egypt _ which is now controlled by government opponents _ with eight agencies providing medical care, food and other critical aid.

Tunisians, to the northwest, have been providing refugees with shelter and food, Amos said. Governments and individuals have shown "tremendous generosity," she said.