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Humanitarian corridor to Misurata urgently needed

Libya, May 11, 2011

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Mercy Corps is urgently appealing for the immediate establishment of a secure humanitarian corridor into Misurata, Libya.

After nearly two months of violence in the western Libya port city, critical humanitarian supplies are dwindling and access into the city is becoming increasingly dangerous, with aid boats recently becoming the target of mortar attacks. A Mercy Corps team in Libya with a regular presence in Misurata reports that food, medical and basic hygiene items are running low and leaves the city’s remaining residents at risk of a potential humanitarian crisis.

"There are tens of thousands of innocent civilians caught in this conflict who need reliable access to basics supplies immediately. It is unacceptable for the Libyan government to deny this access and starve out its own people. There needs to be a protected humanitarian corridor established now," declared Steve Haley, Country Representative.

Mercy Corps staff have made multiple recent trips from Benghazi to Misurata to facilitate the evacuation of thousands of foreign workers and Libyan nationals, deliver food assistance, lead coordination efforts amongst other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and assess the humanitarian situation. The team found that limited amounts of aid are arriving in the midst of continued conflict with no clear or protected humanitarian corridor.

The Mercy Corps team found that supply chains throughout the area have broken down, affecting food, medical and hygiene supplies as well as creating fuel shortages and access to cash. Conventional warehouses have been destroyed by targeted attacks, and people have resorted to storing food in residential garages.

The Mercy Corps team reports that civilian safety is declining. Residential areas have become targets of indiscriminate shelling. Residents are struggling to survive and urgently need additional international assistance. Conflict, fuel and cash shortages, as well as virtually no communication access, have created a situation where residents have almost no mobility. While residents currently have access to clean water from a local desalinization plant,that supply could dry up as fuel needed to run the plant becomes less available.

Libyan organizations in Misurata are providing as much assistance as possible, under difficult circumstances and with very limited resources, to meet the needs of approximately 35,000 remaining families affected by the conflict. It is critical that the international community be granted access to provide aid, given the scope and instability of current conditions.

“Ultimately, Libya needs a political solution to end this conflict and get life back to normal. Until that happens, the international community must provide sufficient aid to Libyan civilians, and Libyans must be able to access that aid,” explains Haley. “If the conflict drags on without that access, residents in Misurata and neighboring cities could soon run out of water, food, fuel and other vital supplies.”

“Residents of Misurata are just trying to survive,” continues Haley. “People are out on the streets, but it’s by no means life as usual. Instead of going to school or work, people are waiting in line for hours for fuel or bread, or going to check on relatives and friends. The situation is grim, and will get much worse without international intervention.”