10:50am

Fri March 25, 2011
The Two-Way

Nobody Knows How Bad It Is In Libya

The Allies have two reasons for entering Libya: first, to encourage Col. Moammar Gadhafi to leave power and second, to meet the humanitarian needs of Libyan civilians.

Nobody has any clear idea what those needs are, other than the situation is dire.

The UN, which backed the Allied no-fly zone in Libya, says it doesn't have access inside the country but estimates about 350,000 people have fled violence in the past five weeks. Thousands of people are stranded at Libya's borders. A UN report states:

"Though not a classic humanitarian catastrophe, the crisis in Libya continues to grow worrisome with respect to protection and human rights. The risk for an intensified humanitarian situation remains high."

The relief group, Medecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders, warned on Tuesday it had to pull personnel out of the rebel-held Libya city of Benghazi:

"The situation is changing extremely fast, so it is difficult to get a global picture. Last week, we had to leave Benghazi because the safety of our staff could not be guaranteed, making it impossible for us to provide health care. What started as an uprising then became an internal conflict and is now an international war. It remains very difficult for us to assess the risks in this highly insecure context and to anticipate what might happen next."

As for the Allied humanitarian efforts, the group adds:

"MSF is worried that the word "humanitarian" is being used by some involved in the conflict, which tends to blur the line between military and independent humanitarian aid. In order for humanitarian aid to be respected, it needs to be impartial and independent."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.