UN World Food Programme

Libya: WFP Calls For Safe Access As Food Ship Turns Back

An archive picture of a WFP food ship transporting relief supplies.

(Copyright: WFP/Jonathan Drake)

WFP is calling for safe humanitarian access to Libya after a ship carrying food aid was forced to turn back on Thursday amidst security concerns. "This shows the scale of the challenge we face," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

ROME – A ship chartered by WFP that was carrying more than 1,000 metric tons of wheat, at the request of the Red Crescent in eastern Libya, to the Libyan port of Benghazi has returned to port in Malta today without unloading its cargo due to security concerns.

“We urgently call for safe humanitarian access to Libya,” said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran.  “This shows the scale of the challenge we face, especially if there is a need to scale up food and other assistance in Libya.”

Media organisations have reported aerial bombardments outside the port city of Benghazi, and owners of cargo vessels are reluctant to send their ships into areas where crew members could be endangered or assets damaged.

Humanitarian corridors

“We are exploring every possible humanitarian corridor to be prepared in case needs escalate,” Sheeran added.  “We have already airlifted high energy biscuits to the Tunisian border and we are in the process of pre-positioning wheat flour in the same area.  Our teams are looking at options to build contingency plans and ensure that those who may need food assistance – especially women and children – do not go hungry.”

WFP is launching a three month regional operation costing US$ 39.2 million to provide food assistance inside Libya, to populations that have crossed into Tunisia and Egypt, as well as to communities that are feeling the wider economic impact of civil unrest over recent months.