|Displaced Once Again: Many Third-Country Nationals Have Fled Libya|
CHOUCHA CAMP, Southern Tunisia -- “My father died when I was three years old. Armed bandits killed him one evening as he was coming home. Every night I remember this scene before falling asleep,” says Mariam Ibrahim, a 20-year-old Somali who grew up amid civil war. She left Somalia at the age of 16 and was smuggled all the way to Libya hoping never to see Mogadishu again. “I didn’t know if life would be easier elsewhere,” she recalls, “but I wanted to run away from the kingdom of death.”
Today, Mariam is one of 170,000 refugees of the Libyan conflict who were able to cross the Tunisian-Libyan border. She was nine months pregnant when she arrived in Choucha refugee camp accompanied by her husband. Mariam has since given birth to her first child, a girl, in a tent set up by the Red Crescent.
Since the breakout of violence in Libya one month ago, over 389,000 people have fled the country. This figure includes more than 200,000 third-country nationals, making this one of the largest migration crises faced since the first Gulf War in 1990. Choucha Camp has been the first stop in Tunisia for people fleeing Libya. The International Organisation for Migration (OIM) has begun to repatriate migrants, but as of 28 March, 8,570 people were stranded at the border. This includes 1,720 Somalis and 856 Eritreans who are of concern to agencies as they cannot be repatriated due to ongoing conflict in their country.
Pregnant women and babies at risk
The conflict in Libya has put women and their babies at risk because of the sudden loss of medical support, compounded in many cases by trauma, malnutrition or disease, and exposure to violence. Women fleeing war may have to give birth on the run, without even the most basic items for clean delivery. In any refugee situation, one in five women of childbearing age is likely to be pregnant.
Identifying refugees in need of immediate help
Bochra Ben Teib, 54 years old, has been a midwife in Tunisia for 35 years. A few kilometers from her hometown in Eastern Tunisia, she discovered an unimaginable situation some weeks ago. “With my husband, we came to bring blankets and food to the first refugees who had fled Libya,” she recalls. “I noticed that there were many pregnant women among all the people here. I immediately wanted to help them.”
Providing psychosocial support
UNFPA also provide psychosocial support for families and individuals affected by the crisis at the camp, and helps protect women against gender-based violence. Ameni Touhami, one of 13 psychologists trained and deployed by UNFPA, noticed an amazing solidarity among the refugees during her visits to the different tents in the camp. “Somali women would direct me towards members of the community who were in distress,” she says. “I was able to intervene quickly in cases which needed immediate attention. For example, I assisted a young woman who had been in the camp for several days when she learned of the deaths of her husband and baby who had stayed behind in Libya.”