UNICEF Calls For Ceasefire In Libya To Allow Civilians To Safely Leave Conflict Areas

WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 19th April, 2019) United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has called for a ceasefire to let the people leave the areas currently under conflict in Libya, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba said in a statement.

"We also urge safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all children in need, and for a ceasefire to allow civilians to safely leave areas under conflict," the statement said on Thursday. "Children trapped in conflict areas are at risk of running out of food and losing access to medical care. Unable to leave these areas, they cannot safely seek protection or assistance."

The UNICEF representatives pointed out that some 1,800 children are among those civilians who urgently need evacuation from areas under frontline fighting. Fore and Gamba also noted that 7,300 children have been displaced by the ongoing violence and some 500,000 children are have been affected by violence across western Libya.

"The violence has also left the nearly 1,000 refugee and migrant children held in detention centers in grave danger," the statement continued. "They should be immediately released and provided with safe shelter until their asylum claims can be processed or they can be provided with safe repatriation assistance for reunification with their families. The principle of non-refoulement must be respected. Unaccompanied minors, many of whom are in transit in the country, are at risk of grave violations including recruitment and use, sexual violence or abduction."

Libya has been in a critical political situation since April 4, when the Libyan National Army (LNA) commander, Khalifa Haftar, backed by the parliament ruling the country's eastern part, announced an offensive against Tripoli in a bid to drive what he called terrorist forces out of the city. In response, armed forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) started a military operation against the LNA.

Libya has been suffering from unrest since 2011, when its long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed. Since then the country has been divided between two rival governments, with an elected parliament governing the country's east and the UN- and EU-backed GNA ruling the west from Tripoli.

According to the Fund for Peace's 2019 Fragile States Index, Libya is ranked as the 28th most unstable country in the world, a massive drop from the 111th slot it occupied in 2011. In other words Libya is now more unstable and fragile than more than 80 other countries in the world since the fall of Gaddafi.