GENEVA - The U.N. refugee agency is appealing to armed groups in southern Libya to allow humanitarian access to thousands of people displaced by fighting to provide urgently needed relief.
Recent deadly clashes between armed groups in and around the southern Libyan city of Sabha have forced an estimated 1,900 families or more than 13,000 people to flee their homes.
U.N. refugee spokesman, Andrej Mahecic says humanitarian help in this region of Libya is desperately needed.
“The displaced Libyan population in the south badly needs adequate shelter and basic household items including hygiene kits, sleeping mats, mattresses and kitchen sets," he said. "To make matters worse, humanitarian access in this part of Libya has been restricted for weeks and the situation remains extremely volatile. Many have sought refuge in local schools, hospitals and other public buildings.”
Libya has been riven by division and conflict since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, which toppled former dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Rival governments and multiple armed factions are keeping the society in a state of perpetual chaos. Tribal fighting is a regular and disruptive occurrence in the region of Sabha city, some 760 kilometers south of the capital Tripoli.
Mahecic says the UNHCR was able to seize, what he calls a window of opportunity this past week to deliver urgently needed relief items to hundreds of displaced families in the city of Murzuk. This town, one of the hubs of Libya’s modern slave trade, is located about 135 kilometers south of Sabha.
Conflict has uprooted more than one-half million people throughout Libya. Mahecic says the UNHCR has increased its resources by 300 percent in recent months so that it can provide more humanitarian assistance to more people in need.