Security problems hindering UN relief efforts in Libya

With over a month of civil and political unrest claiming several lives and displacing thousands of people in Libya, the UN agency says it is yet to get access to all areas, especially in the west of the country, and is hence yet to arrive at a comprehensive conclusion of the extent of the humanitarian intervention needed.

The UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said her agency is still negotiating for access with the government to be able to send its teams to the affected regions of the west.

"We have not yet got access to the west of the country to get a proper sense of what the needs there are, but at the moment we are not aware of whether we are at a point at what you call a humanitarian crisis in terms of the need of food and shelter for the displaced, along with medical supplies and nutrition," Amos told PTI in an interview here.

She said though teams from her agency as also from other UN agencies have been able to get inside the country through the eastern city of Benghazi that has been the rebel control, they need better access to many other areas to exactly know what the situation is.

"We are negotiating for access for some time, so that we can get in to see what is happening. I had a team that went to Tripoli about 10 days ago to try to negotiate unhindered access to the places we would like to go to and the process continues," she said.

The UN-authorised international strikes against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi are already in their second week in Libya where the east is largely controlled by the opposition forces and the west mostly in government control.

Amos said for now there have not been indications of a major humanitarian crisis but added that it is hard to say about what is happening in areas that are beyond access to UN agencies.

"My priority is getting our teams into the country and making the required assessments," she said.

The UN official said that the situation in Yemen was also of "major concern" as the current unrest escalates the already substantial crisis of displacement in the country.

"There is already over a quarter of million people displaced as a result of previous crisis in Yemen, and we have a team on the ground along with those of other UN agencies.

"But security is a major concern, and our ability to help those people in need is partly constrained because of the security situation," she said, adding better access was badly needed for a better assessment of the ground conditions and help needed.

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