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Libya: hidden humanitarian crisis

As the world watches the fighting rage across Libya, a hidden humanitarian crisis is simmering. While cities are under siege, their populations are being forgotten — as are the thousands of people who have had to flee their homes to escape the carnage.

This bloody conflict is affecting thousands of peoples’ access to essential food and health services, leaving a lasting and damaging impression on young minds, and interrupting the education of all children in Libya. We need to get their voices heard.

We urgently need access to Misrata and the other war ravaged cities in the west, but the security situation is a constant problem. The shelling, sniper fire and street clashes are creating urgent unmet humanitarian needs. Scared to move outside their homes, people can’t access food and medical supplies. They are unable to escape the fighting. Even in the relatively stable city of Benghazi we hear gunfire close by on a daily basis.

Despite security challenges, we are reaching almost 1,000 children each day

Despite these challenges the team here are working around the clock to reach as many children as possible and we are working hard to reach more. Our child protection programmes in and around Benghazi are reaching almost 1000 children a day. We’re scaling up our programmes to reach 18,000.

In an emergency, children are the most vulnerable. Children who escaped to Benghazi or other nearby areas tell of witnessing sights that no child should ever have to see. And the fighting is continuing — putting more children at risk. Experience shows that children who witness such atrocities often become very withdrawn and can’t or don’t want to talk about their experiences. Some stop eating and sleeping and find it hard to socialise. We are helping these children cope with what they have seen.

As a father of three children myself, it’s disturbing to see children clinging to their parents and not yet able to mix and have fun with the other children. And I can see how disturbed their parents are about this.

Spaces for children to play

Hand in hand with our local counterparts, we’ve trained teachers, psychologists and doctors in how to communicate with and help affected children. Together we have set up child friendly spaces so children fleeing the violence can come and play safely and talk about their experiences. It’s working. In fact, the children themselves are publishing their first edition of a children’s newspaper next week.

The news will continue to focus on the missiles, the bloodshed and the daily battles. We will continue to focus on putting the smiles back on children’s faces. You can help us reach the families and children who are being forgotten in this war.

Find out more about how we’re helping families affected by the conflict in Libya

This blog was written by Peter Sykes, Save the Children’s Libya team leader, based in Benghazi, Libya.

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