Libya: complex emergency

Responding to ongoing crises

Ongoing conflict and political instability, combined with continued migratory pressures mean humanitarian needs in Libya continue to grow, while the overall situation continues to deteriorate.
Libyans as well as migrants are in need of urgent assistance.

The continued conflict and political instability have led to growing humanitarian challenges in Libya. Some 2.4 million people have been affected, and an estimated 1.3 million people in urgent need of assistance.

These people in need include both Libyans and migrants living in or travelling through the country.

The continuous response to the humanitarian needs in Libya has stretched the National Society’s resources to their absolute limits while the ongoing crisis in the country continues to deepen. The entire country faces a liquidity crisis and the banking system is failing, raising further challenges for day-to-day operations of the Red Crescent.

Libyan Red Crescent distributes food and non-food relief items to vulnerable communities across the country. Red Crescent volunteers also retrieve the bodies of people who are killed in the fighting, and ensures these are safely and respectfully transported and buried.

The National Society continues to care for the mental well-being of Libyans and non-Libyans present in the country through the provision of psychosocial services.


Although Libya has traditionally been a country of destination for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, civil unrest has led to a shift towards the country being one of transit. Libya currently hosts an estimated 250,000 vulnerable refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants from North and sub-Saharan Africa.

For decades, Libya has been a country of destination for migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa as well as other parts of the world, however, the insecurity and violence that have spread across Libya in recent years has resulted in Libya primarily becoming a country of transit for people who wish to travel onwards towards countries in Europe. Libya’s northern coastline is a departure point for many migrants who wish to make the journey to Europe. The crossing is often unsafe, and already there have been tragedies where hundreds of people have been reported as drowned while at sea.

Many of those who are travelling through the country and assisted by Libyan Red Crescent have arrived from either sub-Saharan Africa including Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal, and others, or the Middle East, fleeing from conflict, insecurity, and persecution, or in other cases, from countries in extreme poverty.

Click here to see how Libyan Red Crescent volunteers have been providing assistance on the coast and inland.


Dead or missing

This graph shows the number of people reported as killed or missing in Mediterranean crossings. In the first five months of this year, 1,300 lives were lost.

Ensuring dignity for the deceased

On a daily basis, people take the risk of getting boats on Libya’s coastline to cross the Mediterranean, in the hope of a safer, better life. Not everyone survives the crossing. Far too often, bodies of those killed on the journey wash up on the beaches and cliffs of Libya. These people are also served by Red Crescent volunteers, even after their death.

The remains of each person are collected from the shoreline with respect and all the dignity possible by these teams. It is not an easy task for the volunteers involved, especially when a person’s remains have been in the water for a long time.

The body of each person is placed in a body bag before being sealed and marked with whatever details about the person can be gathered. Often, there are no documents or papers, no ID cards, and no identifying marks. Without the Red Crescent, these people could easily be forgotten.

The remains of the deceased person treated with dignity by Red Crescent teams while being transported to the morgue before being buried.

Libyan Red Crescent have been increasingly carrying out this duty in recent years, as the number of people risking the Mediterranean crossing has risen.

As summer approaches and the weather improves, Red Crescent teams are likely to have to repeat this task far too often.


Providing dignity in death

Amir from Benghazi

The 19 years he has spent volunteering with the Libyan Red Crescent could not prepare Amir Al Ammari for what he experienced one day in September 2015 when a boat capsized off the Libyan coast, killing up to 400 people who were trying to cross the Mediterranean.

Amir had been visiting local Red Crescent branches when he heard about the emergency. He rushed to help his colleagues at the Zuwarah branch to provide support to the survivors, and to retrieve the bodies of those who died in the incident.

Read Amir’s story

“Asking a mother to identify the body of her son and seeing her collapse when she confirms that it is actually him is completely different, and something that I had never experienced before.”

– Amir Al Ammari

Ongoing conflict

Years of conflict has severely affected health services resulting in the shutdown of several hospitals and severe shortages of medicines.

In response, the Red Crescent works to bridge the gap where possible through the provision of basic health care services, distribution of crucial medicines, and the transportation of cases that require urgent medical attention to functioning hospitals.

Internally displaced people

Libyan Red Crescent estimates that there could be as many as 500,000 internally displaced people various parts of the country.


Ongoing conflict

About Libyan Red Crescent

Libyan Red Crescent was established on 5 October 1957. The society’s headquarters are in Benghazi, and there are 35 branches operating throughout the country.

Libyan Red Crescent delivers a broad range of programmes through its nationwide network of volunteers. Activities include:

• Emergency relief
• Safe and dignified management of the remains of the deceased
• Restoring family links
• First aid
• Psychosocial support
• Evacuation of those caught up in conflict environments
• Social service activities

There are currently approximately 1,200 Red Crescent volunteers in Libya.

Connect online

Also available in: Arabic

[an error occurred while processing the directive]
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies