The UN refugee agency has for the first time begun sending aid into western Libya from Tunisia to help some of the tens of thousands of people displaced by weeks of fighting in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
A first convoy carrying urgently needed medical supplies and UNHCR relief items such as blankets, sleeping mats and nappies, was organized by the International Medical Corps (IMC) on Saturday. The two trucks set off from Medinine and crossed the border at Ras Ajdir before heading to the town of Zawiya, where some 12,000 people have sought shelter from the fighting in Tripoli, 45 kilometres to the east.
The IMC also sent a second convoy later Saturday of essential medicines and medical supplies to the displaced, who are living in very difficult conditions. Members of the Taher Al Zawia Organization have been distributing the aid.
"This weekend's operation is crucial and, we hope, paves the way for other humanitarian aid to reach affected populations who are stranded and in dire need of assistance," said Saado Quol, UNHCR's acting chief of mission in Libya.
UNHCR has a warehouse in Tripoli with stockpiles of critical relief items, but the agency cannot access these supplies because of the unstable security situation, which has hampered all its operations in the country since early July, including the provision of assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers.
Now in its fifth week of conflict, Tripoli is facing severe fuel and power shortages and this has disrupted services and the distribution of basic goods and supplies, including water, food, cooking oil, baby milk, supplies, and access to banking.