The IRC warns of psychological trauma among flood survivors

  • Thousands of people have lost their lives and tens of thousands have been displaced by devastating flooding in Eastern Libya.
  • More than half of all public health facilities in affected areas are reported to be either partially-operational or completely non-functional.
  • “People have lost everything and are still in a state of shock. Many are grappling with severe mental distress,” explains IRC Libya medical team leader, Majduldeen Alhlafi.
  • The IRC has scaled up its programs to help those affected by this tragedy recover.
Read our October 3 statement

Country facts

  • Population: 6.9 million
  • People in need of humanitarian assistance prior to flooding: 800,000
  • Humanitarian Development Index rank: 104 of 191

IRC response

  • Started work: 2016
  • People assisted in 2023: over 130,000
  • Presence on the ground: Implementing programs directly and in partnership in the western, eastern and southern regions of Libya.

Libya crisis briefing

Libya is reeling from more than a decade of political division and recurring armed conflict that has created social, political and economic instability, hindering basic service delivery for Libyans and thousands of migrants and refugees. The IRC supports local governance structures, public service providers and civil society actors in addressing immediate service gaps, while directly delivering medical and protection services to vulnerable populations in Libya.

What caused the current crisis in Libya?

Since the Libyan revolution in 2011, the volatile socio-political and security environment has created a protracted humanitarian and protection crisis, resulting in the breakdown of essential public services provision.

Needs were greatly accelerated on September 10, 2023, when unprecedented floods struck the country’s eastern region, leading to the collapse of two dams and the subsequent destruction of several neighborhoods in the city of Derna. The floods claimed nearly 5,000 lives and left thousands of families displaced without basic necessities. 

The floods have caused significant damage to infrastructure, exacerbating the situation for the 250,000 flood-affected people and 44,800 internally displaced survivors.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Libya?

Years of crisis have disrupted all facets of life including health care, public service provision, jobs, education and financial services.

Libya’s public health care system remains fragile and fragmented, with inadequate infrastructure, operational challenges, and severe shortages of human resources and medical supplies curbing the ability to meet needs.

The crisis has been accelerated by flooding that swept away entire neighborhoods in the city of Derna, displacing more than 44,800 people. The flooding also caused severe damage to critical pieces of infrastructure, hindering the delivery of basic services in Derna and other affected locations. Support from the international community remains critical in meeting humanitarian needs in Libya.

How does the IRC help in Libya?

The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future. 

Since 2016, the IRC has provided lifesaving health and protection services in Libya, as well as vital support to strengthen the country’s health system, local governance and peacebuilding efforts. In the wake of flooding caused by Storm Daniel, the IRC was among the early responders to the crisis and has scaled up its programs to help people affected by this tragedy recover and rebuild their lives. 

The IRC’s initial response plan for the crisis focuses primarily on health, protection, and meeting basic needs of the flood-affected population. 

Health Services: With a critical shortage of medical staff in the affected areas, the IRC has deployed mobile medical teams consisting of General Practitioners, Mental Health & Psychosocial Support specialists and other medical personnel who are providing lifesaving screenings, consultations and treatment to flood-affected people.  

Protection services: The IRC recognizes the protection needs of survivors and has deployed a mobile protection response team. The team has conducted protection monitoring, individual protection assistance, and critical psychosocial support to survivors. The IRC has been actively working to establish dedicated Safe Healing and Learning Spaces, as well as Women, Girls Safe Spaces to provide much needed protection support to vulnerable women and children in the affected areas.  

Relief items: The IRC and partners routinely assess the basic needs of flood-affected survivors and deliver critical items such as first aid kits and family support kits which include diapers, clothing and other essential support. 

This emergency response expands on the IRC’s work in Libya. In addition to our flood-response, the IRC 

  • Supports public service providers to provide critical health care to marginalized groups and Libyans impacted by conflict and other crises. This includes rehabilitation of primary health clinics following years of neglect, and support to public health staff with training, medicines and other medical supplies. 
  • Strengthens the protection environment for crisis-affected Libyans, migrants and refugees with case management support, counseling and other psychosocial services, and safe spaces for women and children. 
  • Provides lifesaving assistance to migrants and refugees who are disembarked in Libyan ports and arbitrarily detained. 
  • Promotes social cohesion and peacebuilding by facilitating spaces where young people in Libya can discuss common problems and goals, and by training youth in effective communication, negotiation, and leadership skills and social media literacy.