Caring For Misrata Is Humanitarian Groups' Battle

Originally published on April 24, 2011 10:02 am
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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Welcome to the program.

SIMON BROOKS: It's a pleasure, Liane.

HANSEN: What specifically is in short supply?

BROOKS: What's really in short supply I think is sort of freedom of movement. Supplies are not getting in. I mean normal everyday supplies such as fuel, for example, that's really becoming quite an issue. You know, there are large queues of up to five kilometers long in front of service stations. The water supply to the town seems to be cut. People are living off the desalination plant. Food is getting through but, again, it's distributing that food in a coherent way which is difficult. Because I suppose the big thing for the humanitarians is to be able to stay in Misrata long enough to have an impact, and that is quite a challenge I think for most organizations.

HANSEN: How have you been able to move into areas controlled by the government and areas controlled by the rebels?

BROOKS: For us it's important that we can stay, we can get a foothold there, and we can do something meaningful and sustainable. And, you know, for example, visiting detainees. We started to visit detainees in the hands of the opposition in Misrata. And to do that, we need to be there for three to four days at a time. I mean this is not an activity that one can do in a couple of hours and then leave again.

HANSEN: Is there any evidence to suggest that the aid that is getting through is being confiscated by either Gadhafi forces or the rebel forces?

BROOKS: So we intend to do is to help, if you like, in the distribution of a lot of the centralized food stocks and nonfood stocks, by bringing in our trucks and vehicles early next week. You know, to ensure that we get some of these stocks out to people who really need it at the moment.

HANSEN: Is there any evidence of mistreatment of detainees?

BROOKS: What I can say is that there is a remarkable commitment to allow the ICRC to conduct its work, to promote - if you like, the principles and the rules of internationality and law. And, you know, people are coming to us and saying, Look, are we doing the right thing, how can we improve, and could you advise on how we should be doing things? Yeah, I think that's rather encouraging.

HANSEN: Simon Brooks of the International Committee for the Red Cross, speaking to us from Benghazi in eastern Libya, thank you so much.

BROOKS: It's a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.