Libya: UN introduces regular vessel to ferry aid from Benghazi to Misrata


The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has launched the first ship with a regular schedule to ferry relief supplies and aid workers from the Libyan city of Benghazi to Misrata, which has seen some of the heaviest fighting since an uprising broke out in the North African country four months ago.

The vessel will make one or two trips each week between the two cities this month, the agency said in an update of its operations in Libya.

The agency also reported that it has distributed more than 6,000 tons of food aid to at least 543,000 people across Libya over the past four months. Working with partners, WFP said that more than 282,000 people in eastern Libya and 261,000 in the west have received food assistance.

The first joint UN mission to the Western Mountain region last week found that food security is vital for many in the devastated region, where markets are not functioning due to limited fuel and cash, and basic services such as electricity and water are also lacking in some areas, according to WFP.

The mission, which visited the towns of Wazin, Nalut, Jadu and Zintan, found that people who remain in the four towns have become entirely dependent on food aid from WFP and others groups, including Libyan organizations, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private donors. WFP is providing food assistance to an estimated 125,000 of the most vulnerable people in the devastated area.

The agency has also dispatched almost 800 tons of food to the region through supply routes across the Tunisian border, as well as from inside Libya. As part of the regional emergency response, WFP has pre-positioned more than 21,700 tons of food assistance for Libya inside the country and on the border in Tunisia.

In Misrata, WFP has so far provided food assistance to around 125,000 people. An inter-agency report on the humanitarian situation in Misrata recently said while there is no immediate food crisis there, the city continues to rely on external support for all of its food needs.

In neighbouring Tunisia, WFP is distributing food assistance to Libyan refugees in five regions in the south – Tataouine, Medenine, Gabes, Kebili and Sfax – through its national partner, the Tunisian Red Crescent. Several weeks ago WFP began providing bread, while other basic food commodities were added last week. More than 13,300 refugees in Tataouine and Medenine have received the full food rations so far.

Meanwhile, a three-month “special operation” for the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) has – since the crisis began – carried more than 1,000 passengers from 115 different organizations on 31 flights between Malta, Cairo, Benghazi and Djerba, at a total cost of US$4 million.