As the civil unrest in Libya has led to an urgent and growing humanitarian crisis, the Libyan Red Crescent Society has carried out a preliminary needs assessment and has been receiving aid and assistance from National Societies in the region as well as from others around the world.
But amid this humanitarian crisis, it is the volunteers of the Libyan Red Crescent who have distinguished themselves with their dedication to provide assistance to people affected across Libya.
Libyan Red Crescent volunteers from 30 branches across the country launched a blood donation campaign to supply hospitals, which resulted in a flow of donations and a full blood bank that can fulfil hospitals’ blood requirements.
“Their team spirit has pervaded all parts of Libya,” says Dr Muftah Etwilb, the Libyan Red Crescent’s head of international relations. “We are so proud of our volunteers, who rushed to help injured people on the ground and in hospitals, and have provided psychosocial support by visiting hospitals and helping all those affected by this crisis,” he adds.
Under the guiding principle of impartiality, the activities of the Red Crescent volunteers have not been limited to helping Libyans, and they have provided assistance to expatriates and foreigners in Libya.
Volunteers are providing psychosocial support to help people overcome the difficult and desperate situation they have suddenly found themselves in. They have enabled people to make phone calls to their families and loved ones, and assisted them with travel arrangements within and outside Libya, including transport to the Libyan border, the transfer of belongings, and the facilitation of travel procedures with the authorities.
Mr Abdul Hamid Al Madani, Secretary General of the Libyan Red Crescent, proudly describes the performance of the Libyan volunteers, who have not stopped working since the crisis began.
“Although the situation is now stable in some areas of Libya, we and our volunteers are ready to face any emergency that may develop in the coming days. There are 30 branches of the Libyan Red Crescent Society and they all have one thing in common: all staff and volunteers are doing their utmost and performing their duties fully.”
In hospitals, those volunteers trained in first aid are supporting hospital medical staff by organizing and registering the injured, and providing health assistance and psychosocial support. Volunteers also began a campaign to collect medicines, medical dressings and first-aid items from pharmacies and medical institutions to provide hospitals with additional stock. The Libyan Red Crescent has also received medical assistance from other National Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Libyan Red Crescent volunteers are also responsible for organizing the relief that is arriving at the National Society, arranging storage and distributing it to the people who need it.
However, the work is not always easy and one of the challenges they face is poor communication with branches in troubled areas. Negotiations are underway to secure safe access to these areas so that the most vulnerable people receive the help they need.
Beyond Libya’s borders, volunteers from the Egyptian Red Crescent and the Tunisian Red Crescent are dealing with the human waves arriving at the border points from Libya. The volunteers there are similarly providing first-aid assistance and psychosocial support, as well as giving food and water – gathered from local communities – to new arrivals. Red Crescent volunteers at the borders are helping people with their luggage and belongings, taking them to reception points, and helping those who cannot read or write to fill in forms.
Despite the desperate situation that many people are in, it is volunteers – in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and beyond – who are a shining light of hope, leading the way with humanitarian action.