TRIPOLI, Libya — A recent resurgence of violence has prompted many international aid programs and aid workers in Libya to withdraw from the country.
The 2011 ousting of President Muammar Gaddafi, achieved with the support of NATO, resulted in 50,000 internally displaced persons and widespread violence. Since then, Libya has been unable to stabilize itself and achieve peace.
“Three years since the Gaddafi’s one-man rule ended, Libya’s fragile efforts towards democracy are close to chaos,” reports Reuters.
The government lacks a national army and instead pays former rebels to act as security forces. The quasi-security forces, however, are primarily loyal to the city or region that they are from, and not to the central government.
The weak security forces were unable to keep the peace in the aftermath of controversial June elections. Violence has engulfed the country again. Militias overtook a special forces base in Benghazi in July and set fire to a fuel depot in Tripoli.
The most casualties, however, took place at the end of July as rival militias fought over control of Libya’s International Airport. Almost one hundred people were killed.
Overall, International Medical Corps recorded the number of affected families at 500,000, and the number of displaced persons at 9,000.
Aid organizations that have pulled out of Libya include the International Committee of the Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres and the Danish Refugee Council. The regional representative for North Africa at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Muftah Etwib, explains, “Most organizations have pulled out of Libya due to the security situation.”
“The Libyan Red Crescent is really one of the few actors left on the ground, along with a handful of NGOs,” Etwib says. He admires the work LRC is doing, by remaining in the country, but expresses that soon they will need support or else be forced to pull out.
Support will not come from the Libyan government. Khald Ben-Ali is the secretary-general for the Libyan Humanitarian Relief Agency. “We have not received any budget [from the government]for a year and a half…it is critical now…”
Ben-Ali says he has contacted the government countless times about funding, but has gathered that support for the displaced persons is not a priority. Because of the lack of support, he and his board have offered to resign. This leaves tens of thousands of at risk people with limited support from any major humanitarian organization.
MSF is continuing to operate remotely from Tunisia, where they monitor supply levels in Libya’s hospitals.
To help resolve the conflict, U.N. special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, prepares to instigate talks.
“In my personal opinion,” Leon says, “There are some urgent matters and a principle that should be agreed. The principle is that this should be a real ceasefire…”
– Julianne O’Connor
Sources: IRIN, BBC, Reuters
Photo: Huffington Post