Abu Dhabi: The UAE has disbursed more than 1,000 tonnes of relief material to crisis-hit countries in the region, with 750 tonnes being provided to people affected by the current violence ravaging Libya.

"We are committed to staying as long as need be to help those in need in there. One thing that not many know about the UAE Red Crescent is that we stay until any conflict is completely resolved, whether one year or ten, compared to others who stay for a short period of time and then leave," Ahmad Humaid Al Mazroui, chairman of the Red Crescent Society, said.

Al Marzoui was speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of the 7th Mena Conference, which is organised by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The conference, which will run until March 26 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Yas Island, brings together delegates from non-governmental societies in the Gulf, the Middle East and North Africa to discuss various humanitarian issues and concerns in the region.

"The UAE has provided over 300 tents to help those affected by the Libyan crisis…we are currently treating approximately 300 to 400 people every day. However, we, like other humanitarian organisations, are unable to enter the country so we treat those who come to us on the borders," Al Mazroui said.

Among the topics discussed during the forum were the challenges faced by aid organizations that are attempting to reach affected areas in Libya and provide treatment for those affected.

Representatives of the Libyan Red Crescent Society highlighted the fact that their volunteers were unable to access various areas in the western part of the country, as they are controlled by Gaddafi's forces. This has caused instances where victims died on their way to be treated, in addition to difficulties in transporting personnel and equipment.

Significant risks

"We have appealed many times to allow our people through because our aim and mission is to provide help to all who need it, irrespective of whose side they are on.

"Three of our volunteers have already been injured in the fighting," Dr Abdul Hameed Al Madani, Secretary General, Libyan Red Crescent Society, said.

Another issue raised by Dr Al Madani was the overwhelming amount of aid being provided, which is often more than what volunteers and field hospitals needed to treat the wounded and displaced.

"Although we are always grateful for all the aid we are receiving, we have noticed some of what is being provided is more than we currently need. To avoid wasting these resources, we are assessing what we need and will provide a list once the process is complete."

However, despite numerous logistical and safety concerns and the related challenges highlighted during the meeting by the Libyan delegation, several positive points were also raised.

"We were able to conduct interviews with 52 people who were detained in Benghazi on charges of being a part of the rebellion. We spoke with them without any witnesses so we were able to observe just what happened to them," Angela Gussing, deputy director of operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross, said.

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Answering the call

A UAE national has taken the initiative to raise funds to purchase medical supplies and extemd assistance to Libyan refugees.

Mubarak Mustafa Abdul Latif, 31, recently arrived from his first trip to Libya, where he spent a big portion of the Dh100,00 that he was able to raise over a month. With the help of his friend Mohammad Rayes, who is based is Egypt, the duo were able to arrange for all the logistics and transportation of the relief materials via Cairo and Alexandria.

Many people stranded on the Egyptian-Libya border at Sallum are forced to rely on various organisations for aid and daily handouts of food parcels. "As soon as I arrived in Libya, I went to the border to evaluate the situation and find out for myself what was really going on. The situation was worse than the media portrayed it to be, and there were many refugees from African countries who did not have any documents of identification," he explained.

Abdul Latif explained that he will be travelling to Libya soon in order to provide further aid because contrary to media reports, there were not 4,000 refugees living in temporary accommodation camps, but 2,000 who had nothing but blankets for shelters. "The day we arrived at the border happened to be the same day when one of the aid agencies ran out of food parcels. By working together, we managed to offload the truck into the food storage area and distributed the food to the refugees through a window."

— By Mariam M. Al Serkal, Staff Reporter