Patients in Libyan city dying without drugs: rebel

3529

Sick people trapped in the western Libyan city of Misrata are dying because of shortages of vital medicines, said an aid official sending supplies from the rebel-held east.

The rebel national council has been shipping food and medicine to Misrata from its eastern stronghold of Benghazi for around three weeks using fishing boats crewed by volunteers, said Nuri el-Abbar, who is coordinating the aid shipments.
“They need medicine, especially medicine for chronic diseases like cancer and hepatitis. As they told us, there are people dying because they haven’t taken their dosage of cancer medication at the correct time,” he said in an interview, Reuters reports.

Rebel leaders say privately they have been supplying Misrata with weapons to fight forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, but Abbar said his aid committee was not aware of any arms shipments.
“Any boat we send is just for food and medicine and humanitarian needs,” he told Reuters.

The committee, known as the Libyan Committee for Humanitarian Aid and Relief, was set up under the authority of the national council.

The committee gets most of its supplies from donations inside Libya, although countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have also been donating food and medicine, aid workers said.

SHELLING

Abbar said that NATO, which is enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya, had given the rebels clearance for the aid shipments between Benghazi and Misrata. He said the rebels were notifying the alliance whenever they set sail.

The fishing boats do not travel on a set schedule and can take up to 40 hours to reach Misrata, which is under constant attack by Gaddafi’s troops, Abbar said.
“I need more boats, especially for transportation. The fishing boats are not built for this job,” he said. “We’re bringing people from Misrata to Benghazi. It’s difficult to bring them in a fishing boat.”

Gaddafi loyalists have been attempting to shell Misrata’s harbour but only from a distance, meaning the port area is not always dangerous, Abbar said.
“It depends on your luck. For me, the day when I was there, it was safe,” he said.

Many families in Misrata have moved from the battle-ravaged centre of the city to homes and schools closer to the port, making it easier to get supplies to them, he added.

But he said medicine, especially for chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension, was still in short supply, putting lives at risk. He said diapers and baby food were also badly needed.



Abbar said he expected the number of Libyans dependent on aid for food to grow in Misrata and other rebel-held areas as regular food stocks dwindled.
“Many of the people … have money, but there is no food to buy in the market. So most of the people will go to aid,” he said.