17 Apr 2011

UK holding Libya talks at UN over Misrata civilian crisis

Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Street by street, the battle for Misrata goes on. Channel 4 News Foreign Correspondent Jonathan Miller reports from Libya as a UK minister travels to the United Nations for humanitarian crisis talks.

Road by road, building by building, the battle for the rebel-held city of Misrata in the west of Libya intensifies. Six civilians were reportedly killed and dozens injured on Sunday as Colonel Gaddafi‘s forces continued their seven-week assault on the sea port with rocket and artillery attacks.

Dramatic video (see below) emerged showing young rebel fighters, some armed with rocket-propelled grenades, involved in tit-for-tat street battles.

But as food and medicine run short, attention is turning to the humanitarian situation.

More from Channel 4 Newschildren of Misrata find ‘candy bombs’ in the street

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell is travelling to the United Nations to hold urgent talks with the UN about the impact of the conflict on civilians and how best to transport aid into the beseiged battle zone.

Humanitarian agencies must be given free and unfettered access to Misrata and other areas affected by fighting. Andrew Mitchell

Tens of thousands of civilians in towns in western Libya have been trapped by ongoing fighting for over five weeks, with increasing numbers of wounded and sick.

Efforts to get Libyan state TV – used by Gaddafi and the regime to broadcast defiant addresses over recent weeks – taken off air were reported to be among measures being pushed by the UK and France at the UN.

Inside Misrata: hospital staff try to resuscitate an injured man. (Getty)

Medicine, food and water needed

In Misrata, there are reports as many as 600 civilians may have been killed and a further 1,000 injured since February.

There is a growing shortage of medical supplies and injured people in need of urgent help remain stuck inside the city because of the fighting.

Electricity and water supplies have been cut, disrupting hospitals, and many civilians are running out of food and water. The UN is worried that consumption of untreated water from wells could lead to outbreaks of water borne diseases.

Andrew Mitchell said: “The humanitarian situation in Misrata is of great concern. The international community should be ready to respond, and that is why I will be meeting with the United Nations to ensure we have the right support in place.

“It is vital that we continue to get help, such as food, water or medical supplies, through to people. Humanitarian agencies must be given free and unfettered access to Misrata and other areas affected by fighting.”