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Libya immigrants call for aid to homeland

Jamal Tarhuni is one of many Libya immigrants worldwide calling for aid to their embattled homeland. Here are some organizations providing on-the-ground relief.

By Staff writer / March 24, 2011

Libyan men join a rally in support of the allied air campaigns against the troops of Muammar Qaddafi in Benghazi, eastern Libya, Wednesday, March 23.

Anja Niedringhaus/AP

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Libyan immigrants worldwide are banding together to call for aid to their embattled homeland and drumming up support for international relief groups.

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The Libyan Community Association of Oregon, for example, formed in February when the unrest first erupted. Since then, the state's Libyan community – some 225 people – has staged four rallies in the Portland area and helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for aid groups, says leader Jamal Tarhuni.

The association is coordinating with Libyan communities across the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. "Everybody is trying to do whatever they can to help send medicine and medical aid," says Mr. Tarhuni, who has nine brothers and sisters in Tripoli.

"We support all the groups who are sincerely trying to aid the Libyan people during this crisis," he adds, highlighting the work of Medical Teams International. The Oregon-based Christian charity has sent $842,000 in medical supplies to Libyan areas controlled by rebel forces, according to its website.

Aid groups have been unable to access areas controlled by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi because of security concerns and government restrictions. They have been only able to treat rebels and civilians in cities such as Benghazi, the de facto capital of the opposition movement.

But this does not mean their work, or donating toward helping their work, is taking a political stance, says Pamela Hawley, founder and CEO of UniversalGiving in San Francisco.

"At the end of the day, we have to get to one core principle, which is about life," says Ms. Hawley. "We want to get aid to people who need it."

UniversalGiving, a website that helps people give to and volunteer at top-performing charitable organizations that it has vetted, recommends AidMatrix for its long-term work in Libya.

Another member of the Libyan diaspora calling for help is Mohamed Siala, director of the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center in Corvallis, Oregon. Medical aid and emergency supplies for Libya's civilians, he says, are coming from β€œall over the world. Even non-Libyans, non-Muslims are helping.”

With a brother and two sisters still living in Tripoli, Siala is passionate in his calls for aid to Libya now. Here are some other noted aid groups attempting to operate in Libya.

Doctors without Borders (MSF) was operating in Benghazi until March 15, when pro-Qaddafi forces began approaching the city en route to retaking it from the rebels. MSF said Tuesday that it is attempting to return. "In the few weeks that we spent in Benghazi, we managed to provide more than 30 tons of medical supplies to different hospitals, including surgical kits and external fixators that are desperately needed for people with gunshot wounds," said MSF emergency coordinator Simon Burroughs. On March 21, MSF was able to ship two surgical kits with enough materials to care for 150 wounded people to a hospital in the Libyan city of Misrata.

International Committee of the Red Cross said it has shipped 180 tons of relief goods to Benghazi and seven trucks carrying 145 tons of rice, sugar, oil, lentils, and salt to Tobruk. "It is supporting local medical teams and working closely with the Libyan Red Crescent to alleviate the plight of civilians affected by the conflict," according to a statement March 19.

Islamic Relief is operating in eastern Libya, where it has distributed of medical items, staff, and food staples. It is also on the border with Tunisia, where it is managing a refugee camp, distributing food packs, operating a medical tent, and establishing latrines and showers.

Mercy Corp says it has "staff on the Libya-Egypt border, as well as first-hand understanding of the situation from recent assessment in and around the Libyan city of Benghazi."

International Medical Corps is "on the ground in Eastern Libya and at the Tunisian border, providing critical relief to thousands of displaced families." Donations help provide medical care, psychosocial support, and medicines and supplies.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is working on Libya's borders to provide "emergency relief items to the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children fleeing the unrest in Libya." Donations help provide tents, blankets, food, water, and other supplies to refugees.

InterAction, an alliance of US-based international nongovernmental organizations, provides a full list of members responding to the crisis in Libya.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more organizations working in Libya, and also amended to reflect that Global Fund for Women does not work in Libya as originally stated.

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