The Red Cross said it was extending its activities to western Libya today, as a ship of medical supplies docked in the besieged port city of Misrata and its aid workers made their way to Zawiyah.
“We are sending the ship to support Misrata’s main hospital, by delivering enough medical supplies to treat 300 patients with weapon injuries on the spot,” Jean-Michel Monod, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team now in Tripoli, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Libyan rebels fighting troops loyal to Gadafy said eight of their fighters had been killed in clashes along a road leading to the rebel-controlled port today.
A rebel fighter who identified himself as Mustafa Abdulrahman also said Nato had intensified its air strikes on government forces laying siege to Libya’s third city.
“I have to say that the Nato forces have changed since yesterday, we are sensing a positive change. They have bombed at least four sites held by Gadafy’s forces in Misrata,” he told Reuters by telephone.
The Red Cross’s arrival comes more than a week after the independent humanitarian agency began negotiations with Libyan government officials on access to western areas. “This is definitely a breakthrough,” ICRC spokeswoman Nicole Engelbrecht told Reuters.
The ICRC is already deployed in rebel-held eastern territory, mainly in the cities of Benghazi and Tobruk, where it has supplied hospitals, distributed food and visited Libyan government soldiers captured during the conflict.
Aid agencies have been trying to reach civilians in western Libya, including Misrata, where residents and migrant workers have faced shortages of basic foodstuffs, a lack of medical supplies and sporadic water and electricity supplies.
A vessel carrying enough food for 40,000 people for a month, chartered by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), reached Misrata on Thursday.
The ICRC-chartered vessel carried 130 cubic metres of medicines and other cargo for Misrata.
It includes surgical instruments and equipment for sterilising them, medical supplies and drugs, stretchers and blankets. Five ICRC staff were also on board to assess the situation in Misrata and needs of civilians there.
“We hope to deliver more emergency supplies in the next few days,” Monod said.
ICRC and Libyan Red Crescent officials were on their way early
today from Tripoli to Zawiyah, a coastal town that has been virtually off limits to aid agencies.
They will conduct an initial assessment of the humanitarian situation, focusing mainly on health care, the statement said.
Rebel forces held Zawiyah for several weeks after an anti-Gadafy uprising erupted in Libya in mid-February but were defeated on March 10 after fierce battles. The town, about 50 km west of Tripoli is now under state control.