Wednesday

1st Apr 2020

EU: Libyan crisis complicated by lack of aid network

  • The Libyan Red Crescent Society has already provided blood supplies to several hospitals in Benghazi (Photo: Ingmar Zahorsky)

As dramatic events continue to unfold in Libya, the EU's humanitarian aid chief has said the dearth of aid organisations on the ground could pose a key problem if the situation deteriorates further.

The comments on Tuesday (22 February) come as the death toll in the north African state continues to rise, with witnesses in Tripoli describing Libyan security forces firing "randomly" at protesters. In a desperate bid to cling on to power, dictator Moammar Gaddafi used a late afternoon television address to call on his supporters to rise up, insisting that "protesters are serving the devil".

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Sources from two hospitals in the capital told Human Rights Watch that at least 62 bodies had been brought into their morgues since Sunday, with the rising casualty list placing increased pressure on the country's health services.

"Of the countries in the region, I am most worried about Libya due to the lack of support organisations on the ground," EU humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva told a group of journalists. Brussels has a €800 million-a-year humanitarian aid budget which it largely hands out to groups working in the field.

Rising oil prices are also a cause for concern, said the Bulgarian politician, with greater transport costs having an important knock-on effect for food prices. "Already for the most vulnerable, the food bill is going up. If it continues to go up, more and more people will be pushed into extreme poverty," she said.

The average European pays roughly 12 percent of their income on food, but in poorer regions the figure can exceed 60 percent. The number of people living in extreme poverty had fallen to 800 million across the globe in recent years, but in 2010 started to rise again.

Protests and violence in Libya have been a key factor in rising oil prices in recent days, with oil operators on strike and some large multinationals such as BP forced to suspend onshore exploration. Oil hovered at close to the $100 a barrel mark on Tuesday afternoon.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) informed the European Commission it is was sending a mission to Libya to help its partner organisation on the ground, potentially foreshadowing a greater EU humanitarian aid role.

The ICRC is a key recipient of EU humanitarian aid. "If they are on the ground and delivering in Libya the EU would definitely support them," an EU contact told this website.

ICRC partner organisation the Libyan Red Crescent Society has already provided blood supplies to several hospitals in Benghazi where the violence has been greatest.

Current holders of the EU's rotating presidency Hungary condemned the ongoing turmoil. "We have to make it very clear that it is unacceptable that dictators should shoot their own people," Hungarian Minister of State Zsolt Nemeth told journalists after an informal meeting of EU development ministers in Brussels.

The UN security council is on Tuesday afternoon meeting in New York on the Libya unrest, with German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle hinting at what might come: "If Libya continues to use force against its own people, sanctions will become inevitable."

UK foreign secretary said those responsible for the violence would held accountable: "The Libyan government is trying to stop the world seeing what is happening. But they should be held accountable by the international community and by Libyans themselves."

But in a televised address on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Gaddafi called on his supporters to rise up against the protesters. "If matters require, we will use force, according to international law and the Libyan constitution," he said.

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