Save the Children Canada

Save the Children Canada

March 02, 2011 13:37 ET

A Million Children at Risk as Humanitarian Crisis Threatens Libya, Save the Children Warns

BENGHAZI, LIBYA--(Marketwire - March 2, 2011) - More than a million children in Western Libya are in serious danger as government forces vie with protesters for control of key towns and cities, including the country's capital Tripoli, Save the Children has warned.

The children's charity has gathered testimony from families and children in Tripoli and nearby towns, who have spoken of their fears of death, injury and arrest as Libyan security forces continue to crack down on opposition protesters. It is estimated that over a million children live in the area.

"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," said Anna Miller, Save the Children's Humanitarian and Emergencies Manager. "Hundreds of thousands of children could be forced to flee their homes; many could be injured or killed if the situation develops into full-fledged combat."

A thirteen year-old boy from Tripoli interviewed by Save the Children described the climate of fear in the city. "I'm terrified, scared, not feeling safe, and I'm afraid I'll be an orphan," he said. "I've heard that fathers of my friends are being taken and 'disappeared."

700,000 children are believed to live in Tripoli, where the humanitarian situation remains unclear due to difficulties in gaining independent access to the civilian population.

Reports from the city suggest that schools are closed, with many people staying at home rather than risking attracting the attention of security forces patrolling the streets.

Meanwhile, in the opposition-controlled town of Zawiya, Save the Children spoke to a mother who described fears of her family being caught in violence if government forces, currently surrounding the town, tried to retake control.

"I have heard that mercenaries are surrounding the area and preventing any supplies coming in," she said. "I am worried that there is going to be a shortage of food as a result of this siege. When I hear a bang, I think that the house has been hit."

The fears of families living in the west of the country reflect a deeply volatile situation that has already caused more than 100,000 people, mainly migrant workers, to flee Libya to Egypt and Tunisia.

There are reports that Libyan families trying to leave the country are being harassed by security forces on their side of the border.

Save the Children has an emergency response team in Eastern Libya assessing the needs of the population in opposition controlled areas, as well as emergency specialists on the Tunisian and Egyptian borders monitoring the needs of refugees as they cross.

To make a donation visit the Children's Emergency Fund page on the Save the Children website.

Contact Information

  • For more information, or interviews with staff in Libya,
    Egypt or Tunisia, please contact:
    Save the Children
    Cicely McWilliam, Media Rep
    416-218.1888 or by cell 647-291-1683