15 March 2011
A British Red Cross emergency hygiene and sanitation team is on its way to Tunisia with urgently needed sanitation equipment for people fleeing civil war in neighbouring Libya.
On 15 March, the four-member team headed to the Tunisian border town of Ben Guerdane, where a camp has been set up by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) for 17,000 people who have fled the political unrest in Libya.
Barry Armstrong, British Red Cross disaster response manager, said: “With so many thousands of people living in tents, adequate sanitation facilities becomes absolutely paramount to prevent the spread of disease. We are working with the Tunisian Red Crescent who are very active in the camp and we’re also co-ordinating our work with other organisations.”
Hygiene and sanitation support
There are currently 17,000 people in the camp, including around 300 families. The British Red Cross team is taking emergency latrines and other essential hygiene kit and can deal with the sanitation needs of up to 20,000 people.
Michael Kemsley, one of the hygiene and sanitation team members on his way to Tunisia, said: “The work of our team will be vital for making sure people escaping the fighting, who have already been through so much, continue to stay healthy.
“We know that among those who have fled Libya are people from other countries and we will provide support to them as well during their stay in the camp.”
Increasing humanitarian needs
As heavy fighting continues in Libya, the latest UN figures report more than 267,000 people have fled the country, including more than 140,000 crossing the border to Tunisia.
Melanie McNeil, British Red Cross logistics delegate currently based in Tunisia to help with the distribution of emergency relief, said: “The number in the camp is increasing and we are scaling up our response. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is setting up a camp as quickly as possible so that it can absorb the people not finding room in other camps.
“The temperatures out here are high and the conditions harsh. Many people have had to walk long distances to get to the camps and are arriving in quite a state – they are hungry and exhausted.”
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