UN World Food Programme

Fleeing From Libya, Sudanese Mother Finds Safety, Food

Mai and her family are among thousands camping out in tents on Tunisia's border with Libya, waiting to go home.

Copyright: WFP/Abeer Etefa

Mai and her family are among the tens of thousands of people who have fled violence-torn Libya in recent weeks. Now, they are staying at a transit camp on the Tunisian border, waiting to be evacuated home to Sudan.

RAS JEDIR, Tunisia -- Mai fled her home in Zwara, 110 kilometers west of the Libyan capital Tripoli, with her husband and two young children on Friday, after violence swept across the Mediterranean city.

"Food was becoming scarce as the shops would open for a short time every few days and my husband had to line up for bread for hours," said the 28-year-old Sudanese.

It took the family six hours to reach the Tunisian border, some 60 kilometers way. "It was exhausting, nerve wrecking and very intimidating to say the least," Mai said.

"The road was not safe in some parts and we were stopped by the authorities where they searched us and confiscated our mobile phone memory cards," she said. "But we are so glad to be here in safety in Tunisia and are hoping for a quick departure to reunite with our family in Sudan."

Trying to get home
For the moment, the family is staying at a recently erected tent camp to accommodate those pouring into Tunisia's Ras Jedir border post. More than 110,000 people fleeing the violence in Libya have crossed into Tunisia since February 20. Most are foreigners from Egypt, Sudan, China and elsewhere, desperately trying to get home.

"I have not seen anything like the generosity of the people of Tunisia and the assistance that we received as soon as we arrived here," Mai said, describing how Tunisian volunteers handed the family the World Food Programme's High Energy Biscuits and bottles of water.

As they wait to be evacuated, people are served at least one hot meal daily along with breakfast and light dinners by Tunisian Red Crescent volunteers and local NGOs.

WFP's response

WFP has flown in 80 metric tons of High Energy Biscuits for distribution at the border crossing. It is also offering monetary and other support to the Tunisian Red Crescent, which provides some 10,000 meals daily to the masses still stranded at the transit camp.

"The WFP team is working on the ground to build the capacity of the local actors to scale up food assistance in preparation for new arrivals to Tunisia and at the same time on the contingency planning for provision of food assistance and logistics inside Libya as soon as a safe humanitarian access is secured," said Nick Crawford, WFP's officer in charge of the Libyan-Tunisian border operations.