Welcome to Africanews

Please select your experience

Watch Live



Libyan volunteers in Tripoli deliver outfits to flood-hit Derna

Participants work at a women's training and development center in Tripoli on September 23, 2023, contributing to relief efforts supporting Derna city   -  
Copyright © africanews
MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP or licensors


A dozen women are bent over their machines to sew, in a hurry, clothes and shrouds bound for Derna, in eastern Libya, a city devastated by deadly floods some two weeks ago.

"1,300 school uniforms, 850 abayas and 650 shrouds" have already been transported to the city of 100,000 inhabitants, where almost 3,800 people perished. And these women, in their apprenticeship phase, are working on a second shipment, cutting and sewing pieces of fabric at breakneck speed, in a workshop in the western capital Tripoli, over 1,300 km from Derna.

The director of the training center, Mohamed Kamour, told AFP that he had suspended classes to devote himself to providing aid to the population of Derna, where thousands of survivors have lost everything in the floods. Whole buildings and neighborhoods have been wiped off the map.

"We have stopped all types of training," he says.

The apprentice seamstresses "who themselves need to work to support their families" wanted to take part in the aid sent to the East to support their compatriots. "A priority today", he adds.

According to him, requests from disaster-stricken residents are forwarded to him by charities based in the east, despite the political divisions between the eastern and western regions of the country.

"The center's vocation is already to help needy families, so you can imagine our mobilization when it comes to a disaster of this magnitude", he explains.

Around a work surface, surrounded by shelves filled with rolls of fabric, the women sort and fold the day's production: grey or green abayas, white aprons for the medical staff, but also mortuary sheets for the bodies that rescue workers are still pulling out of the rubble.

Next door, in the "sewing room" amid the crackle of machines, trainer Karima Wanis expresses "the feeling of having lost family members". It's "normal to help our brothers in Derna", she says.

For this 39-year-old woman, it's a question of "helping relatives (...) as we're all part of the same family (...), West or East. In the end, Libya brings us together".

''In need of housing"

The deadly floods have sparked a surge of solidarity among the population that transcends the political and tribal divisions between East and West that have plagued the North African country since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi's regime in 2011.

"We saw people from all parts of Libya, even from Sebha in the south. People who came (to Derna) on their own initiative, tribes too", noted Yann Fridez, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Libya, on Thursday, on his return from a three-day visit to the country.

With the means at hand, restaurateurs, shopkeepers and craftsmen are mobilizing in the west and south of the country.

Aid is multiplying, particularly for survivors, as more than 43,000 people have had to leave the affected areas, often without shelter or resources.

Appeals to host displaced people are numerous on social networks.

"A family has just arrived in Tripoli from Derna. They need to be housed quickly", says a Facebook post, commented on by volunteers offering their help by posting their phone numbers. A campaign was also launched on social networks under the hashtag: "I am Dernaoui and I need housing".

The divided Libyan authorities say they are having difficulty meeting the urgent needs of the survivors, and have repeatedly admitted that "the scale of the disaster is beyond their capacity".

Nevertheless, international aid continues unabated. Air bridges have been set up by several countries and international humanitarian organizations.

The Qatari embassy in Libya announced the arrival on Saturday in Benghazi (east) of two aircraft loaded with 60 tonnes of aid, bringing to eight the number of planes sent by Doha since the disaster. A plane carrying humanitarian aid sent by the United States also landed on Thursday in Benghazi, the largest city in the east, located 300 km from Derna.

View more