Greece (Brussels Morning) In the aftermath of the floods, the Libyan city of Derna is facing a second humanitarian catastrophe, with the increased risk of water-borne infections and shortages of food, shelter, and medicine posing major hazards to survivors. The severity of the problem, combined with severe damage to infrastructure such as roads and bridges, makes providing help extremely difficult.
Libya’s chief prosecutor has ordered the detention of eight current and former officials awaiting the completion of a complete investigation into the collapse of two dams this month in the port city of Derna, which killed hundreds.
There have been persistent reports that local officials knew the dams were too weak to withstand flooding but did not perform structural repairs for a variety of reasons. The Libyan State Audit Bureau provided proof that cash was made available for rehabilitation work that was never completed.
UN World Health Organization (WHO) teams, along with local officials and partner organizations, are working to prevent diseases from taking hold and causing a second devastating crisis.
“This is a disaster of epic proportions,” said Ahmed Zouiten, WHO Representative in Libya.
“We are saddened by the unspeakable loss of thousands of souls. Our thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones, as well as with all of the affected communities. We are committed to providing the necessary support to restore health services for the affected population in eastern Libya,” Dr. Zouiten said.
Aerial view of Derna city, in the aftermath of the floods in Derna, Libya September 14. REUTERS/Ayman Al-Sahili.
UN agencies have also launched a $71.4 million emergency humanitarian appeal, in addition to $10 million released from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), to provide lifesaving assistance and protection. For an initial period between September and December, the Flash Appeal targets assistance for 250,000 most vulnerable among some 884,000 people in need. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), critical needs identified so far include emergency healthcare, water and sanitation, food, and heavy equipment to clear tonnes of debris. Assessments are ongoing, OCHA added.
Massive devastation has destroyed the Libyan coastal city of Derna, which is home to roughly 100,000 people, where multistory structures on river banks crumbled and residences and cars were washed away in the floodwaters. Emergency agencies under the internationally recognized administration of the divided country claimed an initial death toll of more than 2,300 in Derna alone, as well as more than 5,000 persons missing and 7,000 injured. However, officials from the rebel government in eastern Libya stated that “thousands” more died in the floods in Derna, bringing the death toll to nearly 10,000.
Hundreds of people demonstrated in the disaster-stricken city on Monday in protest of the Libyan government’s authority. Protesters asked that government leaders accept responsibility for the flood’s devastation.
“A prompt investigation and legal action against those responsible for the disaster,” demonstrators said in a statement.
Demonstrators are calling for the establishment of a United Nations office in Derna, as well as a complete investigation into the city’s prior budgets and “the city’s reconstruction, plus compensation for affected residents,” according to a statement.
Hichem Abu Chkiouat, an eastern Libyan government minister, stated that Abdel-Moneim al-Gaithi, the mayor of Derna at the time of the disaster, had been suspended and was under investigation. In addition, the parallel government in eastern Libya said that Prime Minister Usama Hamad had fired and investigated all members of Derna’s municipal council.
Protesters gathered outside the Sahaba Mosque, while others squatted on the Derna landmark’s top. Protesters were heard chanting, “Aguila, we don’t want you!” at Aguila Saleh, the head of the Libyan Parliament. Libyans are all brothers!”
The United Nations frequently undertakes emergency appeals to raise funding for humanitarian aid in crisis-affected countries. In this situation, the United Nations announced a $71.4 million emergency appeal for Libya. This money would most likely be utilized to provide food, clean water, shelter, medical care, and other important services to persons affected by the disaster.
Support from the European Union: The European Union (EU) is well-known for its humanitarian assistance. The sending of approximately $6 million to Libya underscores the EU’s commitment to assisting the country in its time of need. EU funding could be used for a variety of relief initiatives, such as assisting refugees and internally displaced people, providing medical supplies, and assisting with the overall humanitarian response.
These efforts demonstrate the international community’s commitment to meeting the immediate needs of the Libyan people during times of crisis, which might be caused by armed conflict, political instability, or natural calamities. Cooperation among different countries and organizations is critical in providing timely and effective help to persons affected by such events.