Disastrous flooding in Derna, a coastal city in the North African country of Libya, has killed thousands and destroyed neighborhoods and infrastructure, plunging residents into a crisis that authorities worry could worsen due to disease outbreaks.
On Sept. 11, torrential rains from Storm Daniel triggered the collapse of two dams that had not been maintained since 2002, according to the deputy mayor.
Derna authorities sent out warnings before the storm hit the area with 16 inches of rain, but reports suggest that residents received mixed messages about whether they should evacuate or stay put. Pressure from the flooding broke the dams, which released 30 million cubic meters of water – the equivalent of 12,000 Olympic-sized pools – through the city.
Experts had raised alarms in years prior about the vulnerability of the dams, but that information went unheeded. Political instability in the country had also previously impeded efforts by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to work with the Libyan government to improve emergency management, agency chief Petteri Taalas said last week.
Death toll estimates have varied widely, from more than 11,300 reported by Libya’s Red Crescent, to about 4,000 according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Thousands more are still missing. On Tuesday, search efforts were hindered by a phone and internet outage due to a severed fiber optic line.
President Joe Biden has announced millions in U.S. aid to organizations working in Libya, and countries such as Tunisia, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates have also sent or pledged medical personnel, supplies and other resources. The International Organization for Migration reported that the catastrophe has displaced over 30,000 people from Derna, and the U.N. estimates that more than 250,000 people have been affected overall and will need assistance over the next three months.
Here are some ways you can help
The Libyan Red Crescent has hundreds of volunteers actively helping with relief efforts as the search for survivors slows. Three of those volunteers have died while trying to help recover victims. In addition to providing aid and shelter, the Libyan Red Crescent says it is also helping reunite families and providing mental health support for survivors. That organization is working with its partner the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is accepting donations here.
Doctors Without Borders is also working with the Libyan Red Crescent, having dispatched an emergency team on Sept. 13. The team is delivering 400 body bags, 200 medical kits to treat the wounded, and casualty care kits for 250 patients containing gloves, antibiotics, dressings and surgical masks. To learn more about making a donation, visit their website or call 1-888-392-0392.
The International Medical Corps, which has been working in Libya since 2011, has a team in the region coordinating with the health ministry and other partners to provide emergency shelter, sanitation, clean water and mobile health services to affected and displaced families. For more information about making a donation, visit their website.
Libyan Helping Hands is a UK-based charity that has been working in Libya since 2011. They are on the ground providing aid to communities affected by the flooding. To find more information on how to make a donation, visit their website, or donate through their GoFundMe fundraiser.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is sending emergency aid, including 1,100 hygiene kits, medical supplies and clothing kits for 500 children. UNICEF is prioritizing children and families who have been displaced by Libya’s flooding by providing basic needs and psychological support. To learn how to make a donation, visit their website, or call 1-800-367-5437
Islamic Relief Worldwide is working with local partners in Libya to deliver food packets, mattresses, blankets and other crucial aid. To learn more about making a donation, visit their website.
CARE International provides humanitarian relief during crises and has worked in Libya since 2021. Funds are used for emergency water, food, shelter and medical support. You can make a donation to the Libya Flood Emergency Fund by visiting their website or by calling 1-800-422-7385.
How to avoid charity scams
- Determine whether the organization, nonprofit or group has a proven track record of delivering aid to those in need.
- Identify local initiatives and efforts that are based in the areas most affected by the natural disaster.
- Beware of phone calls and emails soliciting donations.
- Avoid unfamiliar agencies and websites. There is a history of scammers creating websites that look like donation pages after major tragedies.