Mark Ward is Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance
Yesterday, at an event organized by the Middle East Institute and International Relief and Development, I made three key points about the humanitarian situation in Libya.
First, the humanitarian crisis has eased considerably since the beginning of the conflict, with life normalizing in key parts of the country, and credit for that goes first and foremost to the tremendous resilience of the Libyan people. Local city councils, community leaders, and members of what I hope is the start to a vibrant civil society have stepped up to coordinate and deliver humanitarian assistance, saving lives in difficult and dangerous conditions. This has truly been their achievement, but one to which the U.S. Government has made its own important contribution. In early March the U.S. deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, to multiple locations in the region, and later into Benghazi, Libya as well. We did not wait for conflict to subside, but instead, working with truly heroic NGO partners, we helped send medical personnel and emergency health kits into cities still under siege and rocket attack by Qadhafi’s forces. We supported health facilities, distributed blankets and emergency goods, helped fund early warning monitoring for epidemic-prone diseases, pre-positioned food for those most vulnerable inside Libya, and helped feed those who fled the conflict. Overall, the U.S. Government has provided over $90 million in humanitarian assistance, and has played a vital role in supporting the evacuation and repatriation of third country nationals, especially migrant workers, who fled from Libya to neighboring countries.
Second, we are pleased to see a strong Libyan counterpart taking the lead. The Transitional National Council (TNC) is now coordinating assistance with the international community. A good example on the ground — when Tripoli was short of drinking water over the past two weeks, UNICEF and others sent in emergency supplies, but it was the TNC which got engineers to the distant southern water wells in Jebel Hassouna, traveling through still insecure regions, to restart the municipal water supply. International team work, led by the Libyans, makes our job much easier.
Third, our role is changing from humanitarian relief to transition and stabilization, and we will help the Libyan people and the TNC as they set their key priorities. Our transition assistance will strengthen emergent media outlets and civil society organizations. We can provide expertise and help fill gaps, particularly in building a free media and organizing elections. But this is Libyan-led, a fact underscored in a recent donor meeting when the TNC official responsible for reconstruction said “We don’t need your money, we just need your expertise, now, to help us rebuild our country.” This Libyan determination to help themselves, so evident throughout their struggle, is truly inspiring.