UN Calls on Armed Groups Fighting in Ganfouda to Allow Civilians Access to Humanitarian Aid

The UN released a statement on Tuesday expressing its grave concerns regarding the humanitarian crisis in Ganfouda,a neighbourhood in Benghazi. The statement also called on all armed forces in the area to end the hostility directed to civilians in Ganfouda.

The “continued worsening humanitarian situation in Ganfouda,” where renegade General Khalifa Haftar has been punishing civilians for not accepting his authority, has alarmed the UN, who said humanitarian aid has been prevented from reaching civilians.

According to a UN senior aid official, in the last week the people of Ganfouda have been exposed to “increased hostilities”.

“I am extremely worried by the impact on civilians of intense fighting in and around the Ganfouda area,” said Ghassan Khalil, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, in a statement. Khalil’s statement also mentioned that many civilians lack “access to drinking water or food, while other essential goods and medical supplies are running critically low.”

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that Ganfouda has been forced under siege for a number of months and aid workers have been blocked from entering the neighbourhood. The UN statement mentioned that there is at least one humanitarian organization who is prepared to go to Ganfouda, provided that the rival armed groups grant them access.

“The sick and injured must be allowed to seek and receive medical assistance and civilians and captured fighters alike must be treated humanely, regardless of their origin or political affiliations,” said Khalil.

In addition, the UN representative said “women and children should receive special assistance and protection. Those civilians wishing to leave should be allowed to do so in safety and dignity without delay.”

The military blockade of Ganfouda, which began in July 2014, has put the safety of many families at risk.

“Time is running out for civilians in Ganfouda, who are being left to die trapped by the fighting. While bombs and shells continue to rain down on them, civilians are struggling to survive on rotten food and dirty water. And the sick and wounded must make do with dwindling supplies of expired medicines,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Mughrabi is urging “all parties (to) take feasible precautions to protect the lives of civilians caught up in the fighting in Ganfouda and other parts of Libya in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.”

“Indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks are prohibited by international law and every effort must be made to distinguish between military targets and civilians or civilian homes and buildings,” she added.

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