All day and well into the night, the wind has swept bitterly across the Tunisian–Libyan border point of Ras Jdir. As the sun sets and temperatures drop to 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit), thousands of migrants sit huddled together fighting the cold.
In one area of the border crossing, where thousands of Bangladeshi refugees have been squatting, there are makeshift tents made from blankets and luggage.
The residents of these makeshift tents are waiting to join the more fortunate ones who are spending the night in tents provided by the local authorities, the global Red Cross network, the Tunisian Red Crescent and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The global Red Cross network, together with its member National Societies, is taking action to improve the difficult conditions for the stranded refugees. To date the American Red Cross has deployed three emergency responders to help assess the extent of the humanitarian needs. It has also committed $100,000, as well as donated 25,000 blankets and 5,000 tarpaulins.
On Wednesday, planes began to arrive that have been sent by Red Cross National Societies in Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, Finland and Spain. These planes were filled to capacity with blankets, sleeping mats, tarpaulins, jerry cans, kitchen sets and other much-needed supplies.
All of these supplies will feed into the transition camp that the Red Cross is setting up 6 kilometres (almost 4 miles) from the border point. The camp is expected to host up to 10,000 people in need of assistance.
Water and sanitation needs are also being quickly addressed by the Red Cross, and thankfully so, because the situation has reached a critical point. Whilst the wind whips sand and dust into their faces, refugees squat along a barbed wire fence – the stench of feces is overpowering.
In order to provide better sanitation conditions, Red Cross construction is underway on 450 latrines.
Whilst the flow of migrants may have decreased significantly from the peaks seen earlier this week, the focus has to remain on providing assistance to the still huge numbers of refugees at the border points – to meet their humanitarian needs with food, drink, sanitation