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U.S. Aid Efforts in Libya

A man stands on a truck loaded with humanitarian aid from abroad in Benghazi, March 15, 2011 (file photo)

To date, the U.S. has committed $53.5 million in humanitarian assistance.

The United States continues to provide much needed aid to the Libyan people and to those affected by the conflict in Libya. To date, the U.S. has committed $53.5 million in humanitarian assistance.

Over 600,000 people have fled Libya as of April 26th. Most of the people who are leaving are foreign nationals who had been working in Libya, but there are also Libyan nationals among them who fear for their safety, as well as refugees from conflicts in places including Sudan and Eritrea who had previously been given shelter by Libya. In response, the international community, through the International Organization of Migration and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has launched one of the largest humanitarian airlifts in history. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Reuben Brigety noted that as of April 25th, 117,000 people have been airlifted home to countries as distant as Bangladesh and Vietnam.

There have been some optimistic changes in Libya recently, in terms of humanitarian access, but conditions continue to be difficult to assess in many areas due to security concerns, said Mark Bartolini, Director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID.

Mr. Bartolini said USAID and its international and non-governmental organization partners, including the World Food Program, the Red Cross, and other groups are positioning food and other supplies in the region while seeking more access to western parts of Libya, especially to Misrata, the port city that has seen some of the most intense fighting of the conflict.

"We know there are some medical needs in Misrata, in particular doctors who are operating in these surgical theaters are quite exhausted, so we're rotating doctors with some of our partners. . .and we continue however to get supplies in," said Mr. Bartolini. With regard to food aid, a large U.S. shipment to the World Food Program consisting of 560 metric tons of vegetable oil and 270 metric tons of pinto beans arrived in Alexandria, Egypt, with more to follow, part of an effort to reach up to 600,000 beneficiaries. "There are concerns that supply chains will start breaking down if the conflict continues," said Mr. Bartolini. "And so we want to make sure that we've been able to stockpile enough food in order to give, say two to three months leeway in order to continue a pipeline."

The United States is deeply concerned about the safety of civilians caught up in the Libyan crisis, and calls for complete humanitarian access to meet emergency relief needs inside Libya.