Dr. Mohammad Al Falahi announces the launch of aid supplies to Benghazi at a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A plane carrying more than 30 tons of relief supplies provided by the Emirates Red Crescent was flown out on Wednesday to Benghazi, Libya. It was the first of nine aircraft loaded with nearly 300 tons of relief assistance aimed to help address the humanitarian situation resulting from the ongoing civil unrest in the North African state, said a senior official on Wednesday.

Emirates Red Crescent secretary-general Dr Mohammad Atiq Al Falahi told a news conference that the airlift, the second since the crisis in the country began five years ago, was flown out in line with the directives of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to respond decisively to the worsening humanitarian situation in Libya.

“UAE is flying in hundreds of tons of food packages, medicines, medical equipment, tents and blankets for Libyan people at home and at the Tunisian borders. We have dispatched technical teams to to both Libyan territories and the Tunisian borders as we have entered into a new phase in our efforts to bring about tangible improvement in the humanitarian situation in Libya, particularly in some of the worst-affected districts,” Al Falahi added.

The UAE has been named as the world’s largest international donor of official development assistance for the second year in a row. It donated a total of Dh18.36 billion ($4.99 billion) in developmental aid in 2014, accounting for 1.26 per cent of gross national income, according to the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Al Falahi said the move is consistent with the UAE’s efforts to provide relief aid to Libya since the beginning of the crisis there five years ago. “In 2012, when the first UAE-Libya airlift took place, the Red Crescent had helped Libyan refugees crossing over to neighbouring Tunisia at the peak of the crisis, setting up tented camps for refugees at the border, where health, educational and other support, including food and medical supplies, was provided to thousands of refugees,” he said.

“The Emirates Red Crescent has also provided consistent support to the Libyan health institutions to help them overcome the challenges posed by the increasing number of people injured in the conflict and the limited resources and equipment,” Al Falahi said.

The UAE’s airlift comes as the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Ali Al Za’tari, said that the Libyan Government and the international community need to recognise the enormity of the county’s humanitarian crisis if funding is not received on time and in volume.

“The recently launched Libya Humanitarian Response Plan identified 2.44 million people in need of protection and some form of humanitarian assistance — including 435,000 internally displaced persons — those are acute basic needs in the health, food, protection, shelter and water and sanitation sectors. Of the 2.44 million, 1.3 million Libyans are food insecure,” he explained.

The UN World Food Programme requires $47.7 million to be able to reach the most affected in 2016, estimated at some 210,000 persons.