The World Food Programme (WFP) said Tuesday it has stepped up food aid to people fleeing the conflict in Libya and cited reports of sharp hikes in food prices in the strife-hit country.
"WFP has stepped up provision of food to hungry people crossing Libya’s borders," the Rome-based agency said. "So far, WFP has moved more than 1,500 metric tons of food into eastern Libya and pre-positioned more than 6,000 metric tons of food in emergency supplies," it added.
The agency is also providing hot meals for people fleeing, including 4,000 meals daily at Djerba airport in Tunisia, 25,000 daily at the Choucha refugee camp also in Tunisia and provisions for those stranded along the Libyan-Egyptian border.
WFP said it had heard worrying reports about the sharp rise in food prices within Libya in recent weeks "with the price of flour more than doubling, rice by 88 per cent, vegetable oil by 58 per cent and bread by over 110 per cent."
It also quoted reports as saying that 95 per cent of shops in areas like Zawiya, Misrata and Sirte were closed.
As well as providing food aid, the UN agency said it has airlifted portable warehouses and office equipment to the border areas as part of regional contingency plans.
"WFP has airlifted six prefabricated warehouses, six mobile offices and other supplies from the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot in Brindisi, Italy, to Alexandria, Egypt.
"They arrived Monday 21 March and will be prepositioned in Salloum on the Libyan border as part of contingency planning for establishing logistics hubs inside Libya," it said.
WFP has launched a US$39.2 million (27.5 million euros) emergency programme to provide food assistance to more than one million people in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia over a three-month period.