UN scales up disaster relief aid to Morocco and Libya


Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau

UNITED NATIONS, 16th Sept. UN relief official Martin Griffiths on Friday said that the two very different catastrophes in Morocco and in Libya united by the unimaginable trauma” of bereaved families continue to mobilize the UN’s relief efforts.

He called for solidarity with the people of the two countries and spoke of the tragedy of people looking desperately for their loved ones for days on end.

Mr. Griffiths said in Libya, “some have lost 50 or more family members”, he said.

Martin Griffiths said that UN’s relief efforts, “unequivocally, yes.” 

He told reporters that within 24 hours of the earthquake which shook Morocco’s Atlas Mountain, the UN deployed a disaster assessment and coordination team of 15 people out of Geneva and key staff from the region.

That team was being redeployed to Libya with the consent of the Moroccan authorities to support essential coordination of the humanitarian response to the deadly floods.

If you don’t have coordination, there’s chaos. And that loses lives,” Mr. Griffiths insisted.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator said that in Morocco, the earthquake had claimed nearly 3,000 lives. The early figures were “terrible enough”, they are likely to be overtaken by events as rescuers work through the rubble.

Mr. Griffiths highlighted the country’s “distinguished history” of building up response capacities in recent years.

He stressed that the response in the country was moving from the initial phase, when the focus is on finding survivors and providing for the internment of those killed, to phase two, where supporting the survivors with aid – shelter, food, medicine – becomes the main priority.

Mr. Griffiths said in Libya, where the UN had a humanitarian presence on the ground, a “completely different catastrophe”

He said that was “appalling, shocking, unimaginable in its consequences”.

There was speculation that some 20,000 people may have lost their lives in the massive flooding triggered by Storm Daniel over the weekend. Access to the city of Derna, the epicentre of the tragedy, remained difficult.

He said that 900,000 people in the country had been affected, “on top of a situation where 300,000 people in Libya already needed humanitarian aid”.

Mr. Griffiths described the challenges on the ground in the response to the disaster in Libya.

He noted that those coordinating with the internationally recognized Government and the de facto authorities in the east, discovering the “full extent” of the disaster, as floods and torrents have destroyed buildings and sludge was still concealing the “level of death and need”, as well as “getting the right aid to the right people at the right time”.

“That’s why coordination is so important,” he said. “It’s not a bureaucratic issue, it’s a prioritization issue. Helping key humanitarian agencies to do the job they do so well.”

UN launched a flash appeal for Libya just over $71 million targeting 250,000 people for the next three months.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Morocco Georgette Gagnon, was leading the organisation’s response efforts and a coordination hub has been established in Benghazi.

Mr. Griffiths said the urgent needs in Libya: equipment to find people in the sludge and the damaged buildings, shelter, food, clean water and sanitation, as well as key primary medical care, as the threat of cholera looms large.

He said the possibility of opening a maritime route to bring in aid to Derna, as requested by the city’s mayor, made “complete sense”, and stressed the urgency of supporting people fleeing to the south, away from the disaster area.

Ms. Griffiths underscored the need for psychosocial care, a “huge issue” given the extent of the trauma caused by the disaster.

“Massive reminder” of climate challenges

Mr. Griffiths stressed that in Libya, “climate and capacity have collided to cause this terrible tragedy”.

He called the disasters in both countries a “deeply shocking” and “massive” reminder of climate and its presence.

“We face a really difficult year ahead and government capacities will be stretched to the limit in both these countries,” he concluded.

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