Working amid conflict in Libya, Red Crescent volunteers remain on the frontline

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Libyan Red Crescent Medical teams have provided medical services to the residents affected by the clashes in Tripoli and Benghazi. © LRC

By Mohammed Al Mosrati in Libya and Raefah Makki in Beirut

Calm has returned to Tripoli after a weekend of armed clashes. Intense fighting between armed groups swept across the Libyan capital of Tripoli and Benghazi have claimed the lives of 75 people and caused 141 injuries, according to the Libyan Ministry of Health. The news about the possibility of renewed clashes have prompted residents of several areas located in west and south Benghazi to leave their homes and move to stay with their relatives in the city.

As the clashes erupted, the Libyan Red Crescent immediately dispatched its ambulances to support residents. A joint operation room was formed at the branche offices in Almarj, Benghazi, Abyar, and Tripoli for stronger coordination in the provision of services in the affected areas.

Volunteers in Benghazi, Abyar, Almarj, and Tripoli branches were working around the clock to transport the injured and remove dead bodies in cooperation with the Ministry of Health in Libya. Families and workers stranded in conflict areas in Tripoli were also evacuated.

Mr Qais Fakhiri, Secretary General of the Libyan Red Crescent branch in Benghazi, said: “Our volunteers are on standby, alternately throughout 24 hours, for humanitarian intervention in case of any armed conflict in coordination with conflicting parties with full impartiality and neutrality. We extend our cooperating hands for everyone in order to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of those affected.”

The volunteers of Almarj branch have participated in receiving and transporting different cases of injuries as well as in organizing and facilitating the work in Almarj Public Hospital, in addition to the large campaign arranged for blood donation where the number of donors reached 200 in two days, according to branch’s media coordinator Ahmad Akedorh.

Mr. Nasser Al-Alwani, the Secretary General of Tripoli branch, said: "We have transferred – in difficult circumstances – many of the casualties to city’s hospitals, while the conflicting parties’ understanding to our humanitarian principles had a significant role in aiding injured people. The volunteers have been evacuating some families whose houses had been burned in Alakwakh neighborhood, to safe places and transporting some suffocation cases caused by the smoke from burned apartments."

The National Society Secretariat, headquartered in Benghazi, is coordinating and cooperating with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to meet the required needs of aid and sterilizing materials

Mr Mostapha Hassan Akhnifer, Secretary General of the Libyan Red Crescent, said the society have changed significantly in the last three years. "We have turned from a National Society working during peacetime, into a pioneer agency undertaking humanitarian efforts in the midst of an armed conflict which posed a huge challenge for us," he said. "However, our volunteers’ commitment to the Movement principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence, as well as their courage to confront danger, is what is helping us respond to the humanitarian duty at the time of crisis.”

The Libyan Red Crescent reiterates that the conflicting parties must show more respect to the Red Crescent’s emblem, which provides protection to the volunteers and workers, as well as to the ambulances and the facilities of the society, and ensures that those who work hard to save lives do not, themselves, become victims of the conflict.