March 3, 2011 / 1:01 PM / 9 years ago

Aid groups struggling to get to Libya's needy

LONDON (Reuters) - Wounded people in Libya cannot access vital medicines and care because armed men are blocking roads and civilians are too scared to seek help, international health aid groups said on Thursday.

An anti-government demonstrator who was injured after being shot by pro-Libyan leaders in recent clashes receives treatment at a hospital in Benghazi, Libya, February 25, 2011. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

The charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, which has an eight-person team in Libya’s second city of Benghazi, said it was desperate to answer a plea for help from a doctor in Misrata, around 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of Tripoli, where it said clashes have reportedly left many people wounded.

Like other areas in Libya, Misrata has so far been inaccessible to aid workers because of insecurity, MSF, known in English as Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement.

“The doctor is asking us for drugs and medical supplies to treat wounded people,” said Anne Chatelain, MSF’s medical coordinator in Benghazi, which lies around 1,000 km (625 miles) east of the capital. “But we cannot deliver the supplies. The road to Misrata has been blocked by armed men who are stopping traffic.”

Save The Children, which has an emergency response team in eastern Libya and staff on the Tunisian and Egyptian borders to monitor the needs of refugees as they cross, said it feared more than a million children in Western Libya were in serious danger as the clashes continue.

The uprising in Libya, the bloodiest yet against long-serving rulers in the Middle East and North Africa, is causing a humanitarian crisis, especially on the Tunisian border where tens of thousands of foreign workers have fled to safety.

“We are hearing reports that children have already been victims of political violence and that travel within some areas is so restricted that there are growing concerns about possible food shortages,” Anna Miller, a Save the Children humanitarian and emergencies manager, said in a statement.

The charity said around 700,000 children are believed to live in the capital city Tripoli, where the humanitarian situation was unclear because of difficulty reaching civilians.

MSF described the situation as “deeply worrying” and said it had received information that many wounded people in Tripoli were not seeking treatment at hospitals for fear of reprisals by militias loyal to the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

“Volunteer medical doctors are treating the wounded in private locations,” said Rosa Crestani, an MSF emergency coordinator. “But they are appealing to us for drugs - including pain medication and surgical equipment - to ensure treatment of the injured. For the moment, this is impossible.”

MSF, which also has 17 staff members on the Tunisian border who have been barred from entering Libya, called on authorities in Tripoli to ensure respect for medical facilities and allow aid groups access to areas affected by violence.

It also demanded the right for people to safely seek and receive treatment.

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