UNICEF is mobilizing staff and relief supplies in both Tunisia and Egypt

UNICEF Regional Communication Specialist Najwa Mekki speaks to a Somali girl in a transit camp near the border with Libya. The child is holding a teddy bear. Tens of thousands of migrants from countries including Bangladesh, Egypt, Niger, Somalia and Tunisia have fled the violence in Libya. © UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0412/Marta Ramoneda

By 9 March, an estimated 115,000 people had crossed the border into Tunisia to escape the growing conflict in Libya. An additional 101,000 people have also crossed from Libya into Egypt, creating emergency conditions in all three countries. A total of 227,000 people have fled Libya; they are primarily male migrant workers, both returnees and third-country nationals, but some Libyan families are evacuating as well. An estimated 22,500 people are stranded at the Libyan borders, including 14, 250 people on the border with Tunisia and 7,000 on the border with Egypt.

The high level of insecurity has made humanitarian assessment difficult, but fatalities in Libya are believed to run into the hundreds or thousands. UNICEF is mobilizing staff and relief supplies in both Tunisia and Egypt, and preparing to extend operations into Libya as soon as possible.

UNICEF charter flights are bringing over 160 metric tons of supplies to the Egyptian and Tunisian borders, some of which will be pre-positioned for relief inside Libya. UNICEF is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization of Migration (IOM), the Egyptian and Tunisian Red Crescent Societies, and other partners, and is coordinating child protection and water and sanitation services for those affected by the emergency.

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UNICEF is also expanding psycho-social support programmes in border areas and is prepared to expand family tracing and reunification services for unaccompanied minors if needed. UNICEF urgently requires US$8.2 million to respond to the immediate needs of women and children affected by the conflict.