The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross operation in Sirte has reported that the organization has been able to provide hospitals in the Libyan town with life-saving supplies such as oxygen and dressing kits after the Red Cross was finally given access to the area on October 1st, following weeks of siege (“Libya: more medical assistance reaches Sirte“, ICRC, 3 October 2011).
Despite the delivery, however, Hichem Khadraoui warns that the humanitarian situation in the birthplace of ousted leader Muammar Gadaffi remains dire. The security situation on the ground prevented Mr. Khadraoui’s team from bringing in more than the basics of humanitarian medical aid, such as oxygen tanks essential to surgery, and the team was forced to leave without being able to conduct a more thorough assessment of the city’s needs.
Meanwhile, an estimated 3,000 displaced civilians in the immediate region are in need of basic hygiene, food, and water items. The Red Cross has also warned of the potential for the spread of disease among the more than 10,000 displaced people within 50 km of Sirte who currently have no access to health care.
There is no indication as to when the fighting might come to a permanent halt, and the 48-hour suspension of fighting announced by the National Transitional Council on the 3rd of October has now expired (“Residents flee Sirte during lull in fighting“, Al Jazeera, 3 October 2011).
The ICRC, working together with the Libyan Red Crescent, has repeatedly reminded all parties involved in the conflict, including NATO personnel, to do all they can to spare civilian lives and allow medical teams unfettered access to the area.