2 thoughts on “Oil and people’s movements

  1. Food, Water weapons in Libya crisis

    Nearly 85,000 people have flooded across the Libya-Tunisia border in the last two weeks. Many are waiting to be evacuated and have nowhere else to go.

    Peter Goodspeed, National Post ยท Thursday, Mar. 3, 2011

    Two weeks into Libya’s revolt against Muammar Gaddafi, aid organizations are bracing for a massive humanitarian crisis that could displace nearly three million people and result in critical shortages of food, water, fuel and medical supplies.

    While hundreds of thousands of people, mainly foreigners, have already fled Libya, concerns are growing that a protracted standoff between pro-and anti-Gaddafi forces could produce a regionwide disaster.

    “We may be facing a historic human tragedy,” Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program (WFP), said Tuesday as she toured a border crossing between Tunisia and Libya that has been swamped with 15,000 refugees a day. Other UN agencies and international groups say Libya may already be on the brink of a catastrophe.

    The World Health Organization says the health situation inside the country is “precarious;” aid agencies warn its food supply chain is “at risk of collapsing;” and Britain’s Save the Children Fund says up to one million children trapped in the capital Tripoli and western Libya are in danger of becoming war victims.

    Things could get worse if Col. Gaddafi’s troops try to cut off food to opposition-held cities and towns. They have already attempted to bomb some of the huge pipelines that carry water to Libya’s main cities from aquifers buried deep beneath the Sahara Desert, hundreds of kilometres south of the populated Mediterranean coast.

    The WFP was rushing assessment teams to Benghazi in opposition-controlled eastern Libya Wednesday to determine if the port can be used for emergency food deliveries.

    The Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Charlottetown also set sail from Halifax on a six-day voyage to join a U.S.-led naval task force off the coast, where it will help in any humanitarian mission.

    Europe is watching the unfolding tragedy with consternation, fearing a massive regional displacement could trigger a tidal wave of illegal migration from North Africa.

    The tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, just 160 km off the coast of Tunisia, has already been swamped with more than 6,000 would-be migrants seeking resettlement in Europe.

    Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, announced a tripling of the European Union’s humanitarian aid, to ease the crisis.

    Britain also said it will fly home 6,000 Egyptian refugees stranded on the Libya-Tunisia border. Still, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is appealing for governments to organize a “massive humanitarian evacuation” as conditions in Libya continue to deteriorate.

    UN officials are alarmed by a growing crisis on the TunisianLibyan border. Tens of thousands of foreign migrant workers, many from sub-Saharan African countries or as far away as Vietnam, Bangladesh and Nepal, are stranded there.

    In the last two weeks nearly 85,000 people have flooded across the border. Many are still waiting to be evacuated and have nowhere else to go, but are living with little food and shelter.

    UN officials flew in 80 tonnes of high energy biscuits to Djerba, Tunisia, on Tuesday to feed refugees and are trying to set up an emergency tent camp for 15,000 people. But the situation seems to be getting worse.

    Aid workers believe up to 2.7 million people could flee in the coming weeks.

    A report by UNICEF says the first wave of evacuees was made up of male workers in the oil fields and construction. Now, “growing numbers of Libyans are fleeing the country with their families, bringing increasing numbers of very vulnerable families and a higher portion of women and children.”

    Libya, which has Africa’s richest oil fields, employed 1.5 million foreign workers before rebellions broke out against Col. Gaddafi on Feb. 17. Their sudden departure has caused the economy to collapse. Oil production has been halved and the centrally controlled economy has ground to a halt.

    Libya imports more than 75% of its food, but none of its ports have been operating properly for two weeks. Food stocks are depleted and distribution chains disrupted.

    Tens of thousands of the migrant workers who fled worked in food distribution, meaning it could take weeks for things to return to normal even if the political situation is resolved.

    Right now, experts can only expect the worst. They have been unable to visit areas affected by violence.

    “Our primary concern is getting access to Tripoli and surrounding areas where the situation is precarious,” said Valerie Amos, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. She said there have been “alarming” reports desperate people in Tripoli are being prevented from fleeing.

    “The situation in Libya could quickly spiral out of control,” said Gareth Owen, emergency director for Save the Children.

    In the meantime, Col. Gaddafi vowed Wednesday to fight to the “last man and last woman” to defend his regime.

    In a sign he understands the value of food as a weapon and a publicity tool, he tried to bolster his claim to leadership by announcing he has sent 18 trucks loaded with rice, flour, sugar and eggs to rebel-held Benghazi.

    pgoodspeed@nationalpost.com

  2. Pingback: Thugs assault feminists in occupied Iraq | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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