Libya's friends near and far should step up

Countries around the world can help Libya in this time of humanitarian need. But neighbouring nations and regional blocs have more of a responsibility than most.

Rebuilding after war is often more important, and always harder, than the dirty work of war itself. The Libyan rebels, backed by Nato forces as they took Tripoli, are learning just how difficult reconstruction can be. They shouldn't have to navigate this road alone.

By the UN's own estimate three million people face dire food and water shortages in Libya. Reports from the capital Tripoli are grim: hospitals are bursting at the seams with wounded, refuse is mounding in the streets, and bloated bodies are stacked high in bullet-riddled neighbourhoods.

In a statement on Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon ran through the litany of challenges post-Qaddafi Libya faces. From a shortage of medicines to a lack of power and communication capabilities, Libya is literally rebuilding from scratch. "Lives continue to be lost," Mr Ban said. "The destruction of property and livelihoods has been tragically heavy."

Nato nations, led by the US, Britain and France, had a plan for deposing the Qaddafi regime. It's not so clear they have one to avert a humanitarian crisis now. Rebel leaders are confident that they can, over time, lead Libya towards a more democratic future. But the immediate situation demands greater international involvement to stem the humanitarian crisis. Basic food stuffs, water and power - this is what will keep Libya from descending further into crisis.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council approved the release of $1.5 billion in frozen assets. This amount is just a token of the cash needed to feed, clothe and care for the millions of Libyans in need. But even this measure was opposed by members of the African Union, which argue Africa can not recognise a rebel government that continues to wage war. The AU's trepidation is predictable given Col Qaddafi's historic financial support of the bloc. But it is also unhelpful.

Countries around the world should step up to meet this challenge. But neighbouring nations and regional blocs - the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the African Union - have more of a responsibility than others.

These blocs were good friends of Libya when Col Qaddafi was at the helm. The leadership might have changed but the people are the same. And today, these people need the region's help.

Published: August 28, 2011 04:00 AM