Libyan Unrest Complicates Delivery of Aid

PORTLAND, OR (March 18, 2011) –Medical Teams International (MTI) is considering how the organization can continue providing desperately needed care in Benghazi, Libya, and other communities following the United Nation’s decision to enforce a no-fly zone and the government’s subsequent declaration of a ceasefire.

Physicians working with the Covenant World Relief partner returned earlier this week from Benghazi, where they had treated war victims since February 25. Although they initially were able to enter the country, the situation was much worse than the team expected.

Unconfirmed reports by worldwide news agencies have put the death toll at 20,000 people with thousands more injured. Dr. Omar Reda, a former emergency room physician traveling to Benghazi with the MTI team of seven people, reported that each day he had seen 10 to 12 patients, in addition to five to six other individuals a day who died from injuries inflicted by government-backed forces.

Medical Teams already has sent nearly $900,000 in medical supplies. Much of the money has been used to purchase Interagency Emergency Health Kits (IEHK), which have been requested by the International Red Cross and the Tunisian Red Crescent.

Each kit provides essential medicines and supplies necessary for treating up to 10,000 people for a three-month period. Covenant World Relief already has sent funds to purchase medical kits and established a special fund through which Covenanters can donate additional assistance. Click here to donate now.

“The doctors could go to Libya to help because Covenant World Relief joined us in shipping these supplies to the innocents caught in the crossfire of war,” Marlene Minor, MTI vice-president of communications, said this morning.

“The medicines you provided came just in time,” Dr. Reda reported. He shared the medicines in Benghazi, but also took them 160 miles away where a village had come under attack. “I saw children shot there,” he added.

Medical Teams already is beginning to work in Japan, but Minor said this morning that the world needs to remember the people of Libya, whose plight has receded into the background as the world focused on the Asian disaster.

“Over the next few days, we will assess safety issues in Libya and determine how, when, and where we can continue to bring healing and hope to the Libyan community,” Minor said.

The United Nations decision Thursday night to enforce a no-fly zone and use other force as necessary led Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to declare a ceasefire. Earlier on Thursday, the leader had warned Benghazi residents he would show “no mercy” to the people of the anti-Gaddafi forces’ last stronghold.

Prior to the United Nations actions, Reda had said, “The people have a good morale. They believe that right is right. The next 24-48 hours really tells the story for us. Will the world stand by while Gaddafi slaughters his people?”

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