Clothing, housing, Libyans are increasing solidarity initiatives

Clothing, housing, Libyans are increasing solidarity initiatives

2023-09-24 17:10:00

Around ten women are bent over their machines to urgently sew clothes and shrouds for Derna, in eastern Libya, a town devastated by deadly floods about two weeks ago.

“1,300 school uniforms, 850 abayas, 650 shrouds” have already been transported to the city of 100,000 inhabitants, where nearly 3,800 people have died. And these women, in the learning phase, are working on a second shipment, cutting and sewing the pieces of fabric at full speed, in a workshop in the capital Tripoli (west), more than 1,300 km from Derna.

In this training center, director Mohamed Kamour explains to AFP that he has suspended classes to devote himself to providing aid to the population of Derna, where thousands of survivors have lost everything due to the floods. Buildings and entire neighborhoods were wiped off the map.

“We stopped all types of training,” he says.

The apprentice seamstresses “who themselves need to work to provide for the needs of their families” wanted to participate in the aid sent to the East to support their compatriots. “A priority today,” he adds.

According to him, requests from affected residents are transmitted to him by charities based in the east, despite political divisions between the eastern and western regions of the country.

“The center already aims to help needy families, so you can imagine our mobilization when it comes to a disaster of this magnitude,” he explains.

Around a work surface, surrounded by shelves filled with rolls of fabric, the women sort and fold the day’s production: gray or green abayas, white aprons for the medical staff but also funeral sheets for the bodies that rescuers continue to emerge from the rubble.

Next door, in “the sewing room” amid the crackling of machines, Karima Wanis, the trainer, expresses “the feeling of having lost members of her family”. It is “normal to come to the aid of our brothers in Derna,” she said.

For this 39-year-old woman, it is “about helping loved ones (…) since we are all part of the same family (…), West or East. Ultimately, Libya brings us together “.

“Need accommodation”

The deadly floods have sparked a surge of solidarity among the population transcending the political and tribal divisions between East and West, which have undermined the North African country since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.

“We saw people coming from all regions of Libya, even from Sebha in the south. People who came (to Derna) on their own initiative, tribes too,” noted Thursday Yann Fridez, head of the Committee’s delegation. International Red Cross (ICRC) in Libya, upon his return from a three-day visit there.

With the means at hand, restaurateurs, traders and artisans are mobilizing in the west and south of the country.

Aid is increasing, particularly for survivors, as more than 43,000 people have had to leave the disaster areas and are often without shelter or resources.

There are numerous calls to accommodate displaced people on social networks.

“A family has just arrived in Tripoli from Derna. They need to be housed quickly,” says a Facebook post, commented on by volunteers who offer their help by posting their phone numbers. A campaign was also launched on social networks under the hashtag: “I am Dernaoui and I need housing”.

Divided Libyan authorities say they are struggling to meet the urgent needs of survivors and have repeatedly admitted that “the scale of the disaster is beyond their capacity.”

However, international aid does not weaken. Airlifts have been set up by several countries and international humanitarian organizations.

The Qatari embassy in Libya announced the arrival on Saturday in Benghazi (east) of two planes loaded with 60 tonnes of aid, bringing to eight the number of planes sent by Doha since the disaster. A plane carrying humanitarian aid sent by the United States also landed Thursday in Benghazi, the large eastern city, located 300 km from Derna.

09/24/2023 17:09:54 – Tripoli (AFP) – © 2023 AFP

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