U.S., Aid Agencies Struggle To Provide Humanitarian Aid For Situation In Libya

The U.S. government and “its European allies are considering the use of naval assets to deliver humanitarian aid to Libya … even as they weigh the legality of imposing a no-fly zone without United Nations authorization, according to U.S. and European officials,” the Washington Post reports.

So far, the Obama administration “has chosen not to step out in front in advocating military intervention,” the newspaper notes. Instead, U.S. military strategists and other NATO governments are considering establishing “an air and/or naval bridge to carry humanitarian supplies or escort civilian ships into Benghazi and other rebel-held areas,” according to the article, which looks at the international legal considerations involved with some of the options under consideration (De Young, 3/9).

Meanwhile, U.N. officials said on Wednesday that their agencies continue to be shut out of Libya for security reasons as there are “sketchy reports of mounting casualties and needs in besieged cities,” Reuters reports. “We are pretty blind. We don’t seem to be getting a clear picture of what is going on there,” said one U.N. official, who asked not to be named. “As soon as security conditions permit, the U.N. is ready to enter Libya to assess the situation,” Elisabeth Byrs, a spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said, adding, “We are working on the practical details.”

According to Reuters, the “International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] – almost the only international aid agency deployed in Libya – is limited to the eastern cities of Benghazi and Ajdabiyah. Its surgeons, doctors and nurses are helping treat patients in hospital” (Nebehay, 3/9).

On Thursday, Jakob Kellenberger, president of the ICRC, said the situation in Libya had evolved into a “civil war,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports. “Our feeling is that fighting is intensifying and we have to prepare for such a situation,” he said. “‘It is unacceptable that 24 days after fighting started, a major part of the country remains cut off from humanitarian aid,’ Kellenberger told journalists in Geneva, in a rare and stark comment,” according to DPA/M&C (3/10).

World Food Program (WFP) spokesperson Caroline Hurford said on Wednesday that a ship “carrying 1,182 metric tonnes of wheat flour” arrived in the Libyan port of Benghazi and that trucks carrying 70 metric tons of high-energy date bars are due to reach the city in coming days, Reuters reports in a second story. “This would feed 5,000 people for a month, WFP said,” the news service writes (Saul, 3/10).

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