Each parcel donated by UAE Red Crescent can feed a person for 15 days. Image Credit: Francois Nel/Gulf News

Ras Jdir, Tunisia: The UAE has built a camp on Tunisia's border with Libya to offer food, blankets and shelter to as many as 7,000 refugees, an aid official said.

Abdul Rahman Ebrahim Bin Abdul Aziz, head of the UAE aid team in Tunisia, said the UAE's effort is meant to relieve the hardship of the Libyan people and thousands of refugees stranded on the Libya-Tunisia border, in coordination with the Tunisian Red Crescent, the Red Cross and other international aid agencies.

"The UAE is also contributing expertise and personnel to set up a new Red Cross and Red Crescent camp to provide food, shelter and medical care to 10,000 people, in anticipation of a worst-case scenario," Bin Abdul Aziz said.

Food parcels, each enough to feed a person for 15 days, were handed over to workers and families, who fled the unrest in Libya.

"The Emirati aid team, composed of 150 members, is the biggest among the international aid teams offering relief aid to refugees from Libya.

"It launched multipronged effort to assist Libyan people, fleeing workers in Salloum, on Egypt-Libya border and Ras Jdir on the Libya-Tunisia border and shipping food and medical stuff from Turkish ports to Benghazi city.

The camp is located two kilometers south of Choucha, where Tunisian authorities and the United Nations are already handling another camp.

"We are preparing ourselves for the worst, if ever we need to receive thousands of people, other foreigners or Libyans," said Mansour Mohammad Saeed Al Daheri, deputy head of the UAE aid team.

The UAE is one of the world's top 10 donors with donations totalling $139 million, or an average of $30 per person in 2009, according to figures published by Global Humanitarian Assistance that monitors charitable aid from governments.

As many as 116,000 people, mainly foreign migrants, have crossed from Libya into Tunisia since February 20, Tunisian officials said. Many have been repatriated in an international effort but thousands remain in temporary camps facing growing problems of hygiene.

But more than 13,000 Bangladeshis and 2,000 from African countries remained stranded in Choucha as their government lacked the funds to evacuate them back home to safety, said Lieutenant Colonel Malek Maihoub, director of civil defence at Mdenein governorate.

The Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Humanitarian Establishment has dispatched relief and medical supplies to ease the hardship the Libyans are undergoing in these difficult times.

A convoy of 10 fully-equipped ambulances and ten trucks loaded with 330 tons of food items had been delivered to Libyan relief agencies in Massad city for distribution to hospitals and affected people.

The convoy was the first the Establishment has sent to Libya and will be followed by others.

The UAE has also set up a kitchen to prepare 1,500 meals for the stranded workers on a daily basis.

"More kitchens, more food stuff and relief supplies are planned to satisfy future needs of any sudden influx of refugees,"said the deputy head of the UAE aid team.

He added the UAE's had a well-studied plan to meet requirements of all possible scenarios in Libya.

Desperate, stranded workers were demonstrating in Ras Jdir on Thursday demanding that their governments and the international relief agencies find a solution to their problems.

"Unlike other people, we have no place to go to as our country has been devastated for more than 21 years now," said Mohammad Ali Mohammad, 36, from Somalia.

He urged the UN High Commission for Refugees to relocate Somalis, stranded in Tunisia to other countries.

Most of Mohammad's fellow citizens say they have fled Libya for fear for their lives as they were beaten for allegedly being mercenaries.

As many as 767 Somalis are stranded in Tunisia. Some of them say they were suffering shortages in food and water. "We stay in massive lines from early morning till evening and sometimes we get no food," said Omar Ali.

Some 20 out of the 100 tons of foodstuff have been distributed to refugees, said the head of the UAE aid team in Tunisia.

Mona Mohammad Qandeel, an Egyptian woman, who fled Libya after the uprising gave birth to a baby boy in the Tunisian hospital Ben Gardane, 23km away from the Libyan border.

Omar Abu Baker Ali, owner of a steel workshop, was lying in the hospital for treatment from a fractured leg.

Ali, who fled Az Zawiyah on March 7, said he saw Libyan police confiscating cell phones, cameras and computers from people at checkpoints for fear of filming their crimes.

Mobile hospital

A specialised mobile hospital stands ready to be deployed in Tunisia or Libya in just 24 hours, said a senior UAE aid official.

"Besides the medical wing attached to its campsite with the capacity of 700 tents to shelter as many as 7,000 people the UAE makes a fully-equipped mobile hospital ready to move to Tunisia or Libya as needs be," said Dr Salem Al Nuaimi, an orthopedic consultant with the UAE Red Crescent.

He added the wing is made up of two clinics ensuring medical care in all specialties, including surgeries, acute medicines and a pharmacy that can serve up to 1,000 patients.

The clinics are manned by several specialties and the team cooperates with the Red Cross and the Red Crescent and the Tunisian authorities.

Dr Sultan Al Mazroui, a gastroenterologist, at the mobile hospital, which has a capacity of up to 300 beds, can provide all outpatient specialties, general surgeries, orthopedic, dental and urology.

The hospital is prompted by the UN estimates that between 700,000 and 900,000 people may flee, according to Dr Al Mazroui.

He said for the meantime the people fleeing Libya have been suffering from scabies, diarrhoea, upper respiratory tract infections and exhaustion.

Some medicines are bought from the local market.

The UAE medical team cooperates with Ben Gardane Hospital.

Only 3,400 migrants entered Tunisia through the Ras Jdir border crossing from Libya on Thursday, compared with a daily flow of up to 15,000 in the peak of the uprising, said Lieutenant Malik Maihoub, director of the civil defence at Mdnein governorate.

Colonel Fat'hi Bayoudh, who oversees the medical services offered to the stranded workers in Tunisia, said the authorities were trying to improve the services. "A medical team checks the migrants regularly to prevent diseases and a giant screen will be set up at the camp to entertain the workers."

New camp to shelter 10,000 people

The Red Crescent and the Red Cross is building a new camp to offer food, shelter and medical care to up to 10,000 people, a Red Cross official said.

Jesper Ranch Nielsen, technical coordinator of the Danish Red Cross, said the joint operation is meant to scale up services offered to refugees to meet an anticipated flow of migrant workes.

"The transit camp will receive people who stay for a couple of days before being repatriated."

As many as 100 to 150 volunteers will man the camp.