Libyan and Tunisian societies working together in response to increased violence in Tripoli and Benghazi

تم النشر: 5 أغسطس 2014 15:41 CET

By Raefah Makki, IFRC

The ongoing fighting in regions of Libya is having grave humanitarian consequences within the country and putting pressure on its borders with Tunisia and Egypt. Hostilities have forced large numbers of people, including migrant workers, to leave the country.

In the last few days, fierce battles in Benghazi and Tripoli have caused the displacement of hundreds of families who sought safe shelter either in schools and public facilities or in host communities. The Libyan Ministry of Health has said 214 people have been killed and more than 900 wounded. It has  warned of the possible collapse of the health system, should the situation continue.

The Libyan Red Crescent, one of the few organizations left on the ground, has provided essential medical and relief assistance since the eruption of violence in May. In Benghazi, Red Crescent teams evacuated 57 bodies this week to Benghazi medical center and activated its Restoring Family Links team. The society has also increased its activities to promote awareness of the remnants of war.  More than 700 displaced families from Tripoli were supported by the Libyan Red Crescent.

Omar Ajaudah, Secretary General of the Libyan Red Crescent said the organization had limited resources to deal with the situation. “If the crisis continues longer, the situation will become a big burden on us. We ask for support to strengthen our response to the humanitarian needs of the displaced. Despite these challenges, we are carrying on with our efforts, ” he said.

In cooperation with the Libyan authorities, the Red Crescent has been assisting in preparing schools to receive hundreds of displaced families. The needs of these families are acute with food and water of most concern.

At least  2 million people are at risk of acute food shortage as intense fighting is affecting the provision of supplies from warehouses and stocks which are located in the areas of conflict. Medical supplies also face the same risk. Libyan Red Crescent volunteers have been facilitating the delivery of medical supplies to hospitals and were mobilized to empty the warehouse of the Ministry of Health – which was damaged – and distributed the medical supplies to the hospitals in Tripoli.

National Societies reinforce humanitarian response

Dr Taher Cheniti, the Secretary General of the Tunisian Red Crescent, said: “More than 6,000 people are crossing the borders with Tunisia each day, with the majority being migrants – mostly Egyptians – who are stranded on the Libyan side. Our volunteers have been deployed and supported Libyan families and Egyptian migrants with food and water”.

“Together with ICRC and IFRC, we have contributed to setting the National contingency plan led by the Tunisian government and involving all international humanitarian agencies working in Tunisia, ” said Dr Cheniti.

The Tunisian authorities have taken strict preventive measures leading to the temporary closure of the border, with the exception of humanitarian cases. Red Crescent branches in Zwara and Nalut have been on high alert supporting the displaced families and monitoring the border crossing of Wazen Dhaiba due to the temporary closure of the northern Ras-Ejdair crossing, they are also monitoring the situation of displaced people in other cities and villages of Nfoosa Mountain.

In Zwara, teams have evacuated some wounded cases and minor casualties and provided more than 30,000 liters of water to the stranded migrants and their hosts on the border with Tunisia.

“Our volunteers are experiencing very difficult conditions and in many cases, they were forced to retreat from the field because of the renewed clashes despite prior coordination between parties in conflict. It is madness to try to save people without any security, the protection of our volunteers is a top concern, and their courage in the face of great danger is what helps us in responding to the humanitarian imperative,” said Ajaudah.

Ajaudah has also called all parties to the conflict to cooperate with the Libyan Red Crescent so it can play its humanitarian role fully, as he assured the commitment of the volunteers to the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement including neutrality, impartiality and independence. 

The IFRC is in continuous contact with the Libyan and Tunisian Red Crescent societies, to monitor the situation. Urgent funds were made available to the Tunisian society to respond immediately to the urgent food aid needed on the border. Trained volunteers have been deployed to the border area and teams from both National Societies are playing an active part in the response, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.