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Brussels, 01 September 2011
Q/A: The European Commission’s humanitarian assistance in Libya
The European Union has responded actively and flexibly to the humanitarian emergency in Libya from its very onset. Together, the Member States and the European Commission undertook a complex and seamlessly coordinated operation in the first stage of the crisis to evacuate EU citizens from Libya and to repatriate thousands of third-country nationals who were stranded at the country’s borders as they attempted to flee from danger. With over 152 million EUR in humanitarian funding, the EU is also the largest donor of humanitarian assistance in Libya and alongside its borders.
What are the priority needs?
Tripoli is now largely controlled by the National Transitional Council (NTC). There are widespread reports of shortages of water, medicines, food and fuel. However, it is difficult to establish the scale of the problem in the absence of detailed need assessments. A multi-disciplinary assessment team has been deployed to Tripoli by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection. The team is conducting its assessment of the humanitarian situation as it evolves.
At this stage, the main priorities for the Commission’s humanitarian aid are:
Monitoring and assessments are ongoing in all areas where humanitarian access is possible. Once the remaining areas controlled by pro-Gadaffi forces open up to humanitarian workers, the Commission and its partners will be in a better position to assess the humanitarian situation in the country as a whole.
What are the biggest humanitarian challenges inside Libya?
About half of Libya’s population lives in six cities, most of which, including Tripoli, have suffered fighting and migration flows as civilians try to get out of the way of war and toward safety. Third Country Nationals as well as internally displaced Libyans are particularly vulnerable. Third Country Nationals are very limited in their movements due to the threat of reprisal and deliberate attacks against them and are therefore very hard to access by humanitarian actors on the ground. There is a major humanitarian need to get access to and protect them.
A large number of foreign doctors and nurses were working in Libya before the revolution and the majority of them have since left, which has created a shortage of skilled medical personnel. The effects of this are particularly acute now that hospitals received high numbers of war-wounded.
Libya is reliant on imports for much of its food and goods supplies, including for the provision of medicines. Traditionally, the majority of these imports take place through the Mediterranean ports, but those in the Western part of the country have for months been unreliable distribution points due to the fighting. Ports, including the one of Tripoli, are now mostly accessible but the main concern is the lack of man power to off-load the cargo ships as well as the goods processing and distribution.
Who are you funding?
The European Commission has provided €70 million in humanitarian aid to date in response to humanitarian needs inside Libya and on the Libyan borders since the onset of the crisis. As in other emergencies, the Commission’s assistance is channelled to recipients through trusted humanitarian partners who have field presence and the ability to deliver our aid in the fastest and most efficient way. In Libya, the main partners and the aid they are providing are:
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM)
Hundreds of thousands of third country nationals have fled from the violence in Libya, while thousands of Libyans are internally displaced. Both of these groups contain many vulnerable people with substantial humanitarian needs. With the Commission’s financial backing, the IOM has been providing emergency assistance, including transportation and evacuation of migrants to safety. Funds also contribute to the maintenance of a regular database tracking the arrivals and evacuation of migrants.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
As the conflict erupted, hundreds of thousands of people (mostly third-country nationals) fled Libya, creating a humanitarian emergency along its borders where large groups of people were stranded and unable to get to their home countries. With the Commission’s support, UNHCR has set up and has been managing transit camps on the Tunisian and Egyptian borders with Libya. The EU funds provided also covered the evacuation of migrants.
As a result of these operations 24,800 Third Country Nationals were repatriated to their country of origin and more than 31,700 with the support of the Monitoring and Information centre (MIC). About 2,000 Third Country Nationals have been evacuated from Misrata.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent movement (International Committee of the Red Cross – ICRC, International Federation of the Red Cross – IFRC and the French Red Cross)
The Commission supports their efforts to provide food, water, sanitation and hygiene measures, as well as basic medical care inside Libya and along its borders. While ICRC focuses on the conflict-affected areas, IFRC is predominantly working in the border areas receiving migrants. Both work in support of local Red Crescent societies which are among the few humanitarian structures with long and wide-spread presence in Libya. The French Red Cross boat was the first to reach Misrata when the town was besieged. The ICRC has established a permanent presence in Tripoli since mid-April.
Telecoms sans Frontières (TSF)
With the Commission’s support, at the beginning of the crisis TSF provided access to telecommunications to migrants and refugees at the border between Libya and Tunisia, allowing them to get in touch with their families in their home country. TSF also sets up communication networks for humanitarian actors on the border in Tunisia and inside Libya where required.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA)
In a complex emergency like this, coordination of humanitarian operations is essential. Through OCHA, the Commission funds information management and coordination of the humanitarian actors on the ground in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
World Food Programme
The World Food Programme uses the Commission’s assistance to reduce food insecurity and to ensure the provision of nutrition to residents, internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees, refugees and other vulnerable groups in Libya. The funding also contributes to provide the humanitarian community with adequate logistics capacity, coordination mechanisms and passenger Humanitarian Air Service to deliver relief aid to the beneficiaries.
The Commission has worked with ACTED to set up a humanitarian hub in Misrata aiming to strengthen and support the emergency response capacity of the aid community. ACTED also provides emergency distributions of non-food items, support to the bread production, psycho-social activities and resumption of livelihoods by fostering cash injection and economic opportunities.
Fédération Suisse de Déminage and Danish Church Aid
In a conflict context, unexploded munitions and mines can be a serious threat for the civilian population, particularly in some areas. The Commission cooperates with FSD and DCA on the provision of humanitarian mine action, the identification of risk areas and the disposal of explosive ordnance. FSD and DCA also provide mine risk education for the conflict-affected population.
This partner of the Commission caters for the improvement of health care for conflict casualties and refugees in Libya (Nafusa Mountains and North-West) and South-East Tunisia by increasing availability of and access to essential healthcare services. Before access to Tripoli and the North-West was available, Merlin had prepositioned medical supplies and staff in the Nafusa Mountains. With the Commission's support Merlin has also set up a humanitarian hub in the Nafusa Mountains whose activities could be also extended to Tripoli and the coastal cities.
International Medical Corps
The Commission supports the International Medical Corps in the provision of emergency rehabilitation services to war-wounded Libyans. This includes physical rehabilitation, integrated psycho-social activities and training for medical staff.
Out of the €70 million, € 10 million have been reserved to provide assistance once Tripoli and the North-West part of the country opened up for delivery of relief. €4 million has been earmarked to support the activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Libyan capital and other cities where the conflict continues to rage. The funding will provide medical care, protection, water and sanitation, non-food items and humanitarian mine action.
What are the EU experts doing?
The European Commission has deployed to Tripoli a multi-sectoral team of humanitarian experts and has opened a temporary office in the Libyan capital to support their work. The humanitarian experts of the European Commission in Tripoli are providing up-to-date needs assessments which guarantee that our assistance is adequate and targets the most pressing needs. The experts are monitoring, coordinating and collaborating closely with all the partners working in the field to ensure that aid is channelled where it is most needed, and that priorities are met. Except for Tripoli, EU experts are also present in Zarzis, on the border with Tunisia which serves as the main hub for the UN and humanitarian community.
What are you doing on demining?
The Commission’s mandate for "humanitarian mine action" is quite narrow. Its assistance aims to ensure that civilians can rapidly return to their homes, children to their schools, medical staff and patients to health facilities and that access to public spaces is safe. The Commission also supports mine risk education and training for locals. So far, the Commission has financed two partners who work in Misrata and other accessible areas in West Libya on the removal of unexploded ordnance and on the provision of mine risk education to Libyans and Libyan refugees in South Tunisia.
What can you do regarding the drinking water shortages?
Much of Tripoli's water supply has been disrupted. The damaged installations are awaiting the safe passage of engineers. 30 wells have reopened allowing a limited amount of water to get into the distribution system. Bottled water is still available in Tripoli, but becoming increasingly expensive. It is reported that many houses in the city still have private wells. Some water trucking is already taking place from the wells in and around Tripoli.
The water supply situation is still of major concern to the international humanitarian community, and we are ready to intervene on a short notice if the situation does not improve. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism has launched a pre-alert, asking Member States to indicate whether they can provide water tankers or bottled water in case the water crisis deteriorates and further needs are confirmed.
How could the EU Civil Protection Mechanism support the humanitarian response in Libya?
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism has been actively engaged in the humanitarian effort since the very beginning of the crisis, assisting the evacuation of Europeans and facilitating EU efforts to repatriate more than 30,000 Third Country Nationals who had fled from Libya to Tunisia and Egypt. Over 150 flights and vessels were provided through the Mechanism. In addition, another 30,000 third country nationals were repatriated through the IOM, with financial assistance from the European Commission.
Possible support that could be offered through this Mechanism includes:
The current security situation does not allow for deployment of MS teams or experts. ECHO will continue to monitor the situation and update this assessment as appropriate.
For further information:
Commissioner Georgieva's website:
The European Commission's humanitarian work:
What has the EU been doing to support the people of Libya: