The Libyan Red Crescent, extraordinary daily stories in Benghazi

“Few days ago, a 24-year-old girl was shot dead. She was in the car with her parents on the way to home when around ten o’clock of evening, some armed groups have blocked the road in some parts of Benghazi, starting to fire shots on the streets. The militia linked to the Army didn’t allow the family to pass. A man exploded some shots in air, but another person pointed the car and the girl was hit in the chest”.

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Ahmed Elfakri is a volunteer of The Libyan Red Crescent,  NGO that seeks to alleviate the suffering of Libyan people. Ahmed, who proudly wears the red bib of the organization, is the project manager of Qar Yunis program, launched in November 2017 and scheduled until middle March.

The Qar Yunis district has many problems since the beginning of Revolution: it’s necessary to remove the remnants of war, open roads, restore public and private lighting. There are rest of mines and cars burned, even the University of Benghazi needs maintenance. These are all important things to promote civilization again. Now we are in the penultimate stage of the programme that includes the installation of new road signs and traffic lighters“.  “I don’t belong to any political current – Ahmed said – the Libyan Red Crescent continues to work in accordance with the principles of the International Red Cross Movement and the Geneva Convention on Human Rights. We are trying to help local authorities to reduce human suffering not only for Libyan citizens, but also in illegal migration centres“.

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Between 2014 and 2017, Ahmed was head of the Relief Department of the Libyan Red Crescent Secretariat and experienced personally the problems in Benghazi, the second most important center of Libya, freed from Daesh terrorists on July 5, 2017, by the men of Dignity Operation led by General Khalifa Haftar, after three years from the beginning of military operations. However, the current situation is still turbulent, and security is still unstable. Last week we have seen several clashes and some protests on the decision of the head of Libyan National Army because, on 16 February, the commander of the special forces al- Saiqa, Wanis Bukhmada, was relieved from the command of Benghazi Operation Room that had led the fight against terrorists since 2014. Telling us about his plans, Ahmed gets sad: “Sorry, I’m really angry about the situation we’re going through in Benghazi”.At work – he continues – I always use my car because there is not another transportation, so in the past days some armed men have destroyed the back glass of my car for the simple fact that I had gone to help out in the field of displaced Tawerghans”.

What are the needs in Benghazi?

First of all, there is a great need of hospitals and medical care.  There are chronic diseases that need continuous medication to be cured which are scarce. There are doctors at the paediatric hospital who don’t have the necessary means. For example, needles are missing for vaccines and antibiotics, doctors are often forced to ask to buy the medicines to the parents of  young patients, also the equipment for surgeries, sometimes patients or carers must purchase equipment from the pharmacies. This is what is going on at the Benghazi Hospital Center ” – said the young volunteer.

Ahmed continues showing us a report of  last visit to the illegal immigration detention center in Benghazi, in the Budzira region, on January 15th. In the center there were 287 people: 70 from Niger, 30 from Bangladesh, 32 from Ghana, 100 from Egypt, 20 from Chad and 35 from Sudan. “There were also thirty older people. The health situation in the center is very poor. There is no medical care or ambulance to transport patients, despite many immigrants suffer of serious diseases such as AIDS, liver diseases and chronic disorders such as diabetes and hypertension”. Despite the poor conditions of displaced persons and migrants, some of them insist on sharing what they have each other”. There are also migrants who return voluntarily to their homes, but many remain imprisoned, because they are not able to pay any guarantee to get out of the detention centre.

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In spite of all what they passed in 7 years of civil war there are many good people in Libya, silent heroes who roll up their sleeves every day for their country, silent angels like Ahmed, who with shovel try to fix the streets of everyone.

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In the Red Crescent, a central role is played by the Emergency Team, involved in first aid, but also in the burial and exhumation of dead bodies. In the last two months only the team buried more than 65 bodies, piled up in the cold rooms of Benghazi Medical Center. “More than 8 bodies were recovered in Sidi Khreibesh, near Sabri district. We have also recently faced a severe flood that has brought the country to its knees and has also hit our headquarters. We volunteers are at work day and night with the support of local authorities, but without compensation ” – said Ahmed. In Benghazi, as in other war zones, there is a great need for paramedics and everyone must be ready to handle the crisis when it’s necessary.

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For this reason, the Red Crescent volunteers organized first aid courses for adults and children. Were the children to simulate an emergency situation during the recent visit of the president of the Red Cross, Peter Mauer, who declared: “Libya is one of the Countries with the highest percentage of displaced persons and therefore humanitarian needs are important, in particular in health services, in water provisions and economic support to the displaced populations”. Although journalistic coverage on Libyan crisis has shrunk, in favour of conflicts in other areas of the region, Maurer has stressed the importance of keeping Libya at the center of international attention, as inhabitants and migrants face an harrowing situation.

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