By M. Scott Bortot
Washington — The United States continues to partner with local and international organizations and has so far supplied $47 million in humanitarian aid for Libya, says Mark Bartolini of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Bartolini, director of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, and Reuben Brigety, deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, met with reporters April 25 to discuss the latest American efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the Libyan people.
“We are working with a number of partners, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, with the International Federation of Red Cross [and Red Crescent] Societies and also with a number of NGO partners,” Bartolini said, adding that they are operational in the east and sporadically in the country’s west.
The United States has provided $13 million to the International Organization for Migration for air evacuations, $10 million to the U.N. World Food Programme for food operations, $7 million to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to support camp populations mostly in Tunisia and Egypt, $7 million to the International Red Cross and another $10 million to support various nongovernmental organizations.
Bartolini said fighting in Misrata presents challenges to aid organizations but that efforts continue.
“We know that there are some medical needs in Misrata; in particular, doctors who are operating these surgical theaters are quite exhausted,” Bartolini said. “We are rotating doctors, with some of our partners bringing in their staff, and there are ongoing medical needs. We continue, however, to get supplies in.”
The United States is also providing direct food assistance to Libya. On April 25, 560 metric tons of American vegetable oil and 270 metric tons of pinto beans arrived in Alexandria, Egypt, to be distributed inside Libya by the U.N. World Food Programme.
Brigety said the United States is working with the international community to help evacuate people fleeing Libya. Many of the 550,000 people who have fled are third-country nationals trying to return to their home countries. Since the conflict began, the bulk of people have poured mostly into Tunisia and Egypt and prompted a massive air bridge that has transported nearly 120,000 people to date.
“This is one of the largest international humanitarian airlifts in history,” Brigety said. “This is a hugely expensive enterprise. We’re talking about flying people from Tunisia back to Bangladesh, to Vietnam, to portions of sub-Saharan Africa, et cetera.”
In addition to partnering with international relief organizations, the United States is working with the governments of Tunisia and Egypt to address the exodus.
“The government of Tunisia, I have to say, has been fantastic in terms of their hospitality they have provided to these large numbers of people that have come across their border in substantial areas,” Brigety said. “We continue to work with both governments, both to ensure rapid evacuation as much as possible and to ensure that people have basic access to health, shelter, whatnot, water in these transit camps.”
Bartolini said the United States is working with members of the Libyan National Transitional Council (TNC) for humanitarian purposes.
“Our Disaster Assistance Response Team is based in Benghazi, and they are having daily contact with the TNC and relations are cooperative,” Bartolini said. “We have been able to get quite a bit of information from them regarding the humanitarian needs that they are aware of inside the country.”