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Tuesday, March 8, 2011     GET REAL

UN relief chief calls for ‘urgent access’ after reports of killings in Libya

By George Okore,

The top United Nations relief official Sunday called for urgent humanitarian access to Misrata in western Libya following reports of violence and killing in the area.


“Humanitarian organizations need urgent access now. People are injured and dying and need help immediately,” said Valerie Amos. “I call on the authorities to provide access without delay to allow aid workers to help save lives.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it has received reports that Misrata is under attack by government forces and that the Libyan Red Crescent is trying to get ambulances in from the capital, Tripoli, to collect the dead and injured.

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Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, travelled on March 7 to the Tunisia-Libya border to review the ongoing relief effort for people fleeing Libya amid the recent violence.

Since Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi started the violent repression of protesters demanding his ouster several weeks ago, over 100,000 people, many of them migrant workers, have fled to Tunisia, and a similar number to Egypt, according to media reports.

OCHA said that since Libyan authorities took control of the border crossing into Tunisia, the number of people crossing has dropped to several hundred per day, compared to about 20,000 per day at its peak several days ago.

People crossing the border have reported that they have faced intimidation as they have tried to leave Libya. Amos stressed that freedom of movement is a fundamental human right that must be respected under all circumstances.

During her visit to the border areas, she thanked governments, aid agencies, host families and communities in neighbouring countries, especially Tunisia and Egypt, for their support to those leaving Libya.

On Monday in Geneva, Ms. Amos launched the regional flash appeal covering Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Niger. It will focus on the border areas, population movements, humanitarian needs, security, health, water, protection and communication, and will cover a three-month period.

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