Libya: UN Warns Funding Shortfall Could Slow Aid Effort for Victims of Conflict

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–15 April 2011 – The United Nations refugee agency warned today that a lack of funding could undermine its ongoing efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to tens of thousands of people displaced by the unrest in Libya, saying it has so far received slightly over half of the funding it requested for the operation.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appealed for more than $68.5 million to cover the initial three to four months of the emergency, but has received $39 million, all of which has been spent or committed, the agency’s spokesperson, Andrej Mahecic, told reporters in Geneva.

“We are calling on donor countries to urgently fund this shortfall,” he said.

Of the funds received, $18.4 million has been spent on the humanitarian evacuation of over 100,000 third country citizens from Egypt and Tunisia back to their countries of origin.

More funds were used on airlifting aid supplies to Tunisia and Egypt, providing shelter and protection for tens of thousands of people awaiting evacuation, trucking supplies into Libya and providing financial assistance to refugees and other vulnerable groups in Libya.

“Throughout Libya, UNHCR has identified a need to expand activities to provide assistance to tens of thousands of displaced people and thousands of refugees who depend upon us for help,” said Mr. Mahecic.

“We consider the humanitarian needs in western Libya to be significant. UNHCR and partners are ready to offer humanitarian support in the west if and when permission is granted by the Government,” he added.

He said the agency has emergency staff in the cities of Tobruk and Benghazi in eastern Libya as part of an inter-agency team and that local authorities have identified at least 35,000 displaced people, mostly from Ajdabiyya and Brega.

“They say that the actual number is likely to be around 100,000, since the population of Ajdabiyya is 120,000 and most people are thought to have left. While a few thousand have crossed into Egypt, the majority are displaced in Benghazi and Tobruk,” said Mr. Mahecic.

He said authorities had reported that most of the basic needs of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are being met thanks to the generosity of the local community, but there were signs that resources were dwindling because of the deteriorating economic situation and the fact that civil servants have not received their salaries for two months.

“It is vital that our ongoing operations in Egypt and Tunisia are funded so that we can continue to support the governments of both countries to keep their borders open for all those fleeing the conflict,” said Mr. Mahecic.

According to UNHCR, an estimated 507,682 people had fled Libya as of Tuesday this week, travelling to Egypt, Tunisia, Niger, Algeria, Chad, Italy, Malta and Sudan.