Latest Updates

Friday, March 25, 2011

New projects on the West Bank

Three new Islamic Relief projects have reached momentous stages in Palestine’s West Bank: A new school opened in February, a kidney dialysis center is preparing to open and a land rehabilitation project is getting under way.


The Askar Camp School is a modern campus for 550 students in grades 1-9. Before the school opened, children traveled all the way to other end of the refugee camp, across the main highway, to go to class – about two to three miles each way.

This school will serve boys. Another new school recently opened nearby for the local girls.

Local officials and a representative of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) attended the grand opening on Feb. 20, 2011.

The school, which cost $1.3 million to build, features high-tech amenities appropriate for a world-class education to help children in the refugee camp break the cycle of poverty.

“The Askar School is a great example of quality work,” said Yousef Abdallah, an Islamic Relief USA regional operational manager who attended the grand opening. “It’s state of the art -- it has a computer lab, science lab, meeting rooms, 18 classrooms … It’s going to have a huge impact.”

Kidney dialysis center

In the West Bank, health care is often a long and difficult journey away. A new kidney dialysis center will make it easier for many in the southern West Bank to receive vital treatments.

The center is almost ready to open in Abu Al Qasem Hospital in Yatta. The room and infrastructure are ready, and the six kidney dialysis units should be up and running in a month or so, Abdallah said.

About 700 patients in Yatta and surrounding areas will benefit from the center. For these patients, regular dialysis treatment is essential for their health, and now the journey will be much less burdensome.

Land rehabilitation

Islamic Relief is also rehabilitating a section of land just inside the wall partitioning off the West Bank.

This land used to be planted with olive trees, Abdallah said. Then the partition wall was built on it, and the trees were uprooted. The wall was later moved back about 2.5 miles. A section of land about 50-60 feet by 7 or 8 miles long was left destroyed.

“Now people are trying to reuse this land,” Abdallah said. “The first phase is to make roads across the agricultural land to enable people to reach their land.”

During Abdallah’s visit in late February and early March, machinery was clearing land of rocks and other debris to make way for the roads. This land is mountainous, so after the roads are built, terraced steps will be carved to create fields that can be farmed more efficiently. Farmers will most likely replant olive trees, as that is the best crop in the area, Abdallah said. Unlike before, however, the farmers will be able to carry in their harvest via car rather than on animals.

“In developing countries,” Abdallah said, “the land is priceless for people. It’s something in their blood, it’s their roots. To help them fix their land and utilize it – you’re really helping them with something that is so dear to their hearts. They recognize that and appreciate what Islamic Relief is doing.”

Building up communities and individuals

Islamic Relief also has several other projects in the area.

Orphan sponsorships and food distributions are ongoing, and a $1.4 million family sponsorship project started less than a year ago. The program ensures that 1,500 of the most affected families are provided with basic nutrition and services needed for survival. It also enables families to cover part or all costs of medication and supplies children with school bags, uniforms and stationery items for an educational year.

“We’re helping on different levels – the individual and communities,” Abdallah said. “We’re helping individuals when we do projects like the Askar School, and we’re helping the community when we do things like the dialysis center.

“Education is key. They have no wealth, they have no natural resources in Palestine -- all they have is the human being. Taking care of the human being is something they value a lot. Education is going to be a key for the future.”

You can help Islamic Relief keep these and other projects going. Please donate today.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

IR USA commemorates World Water Day … every day

A sanitary, convenient, modern well provided by Islamic Relief in Mali.

Today, on World Water Day, take a moment to consider … how did you use water this morning?

A 10-minute shower?

Brushed your teeth?

Flushed the toilet?

Washed your hands?

Maybe made some coffee, washed an orange and boiled an egg?

Then washed the pot, plate and cup?

All of that is perfectly reasonable. This morning routine would require about 30 gallons of water. Thankfully, getting that water is no harder than turning a faucet.

If we had gotten it the way many millions of people around the world get their water, though, we would have carried it home from a well in buckets on our heads or attached to a pole across our shoulders.

Those 30 gallons would weigh about 250 pounds.

Imagine carrying this much weight over your shoulders a few miles every morning just to be able to use enough water to wash up and eat breakfast?

And that’s just one person’s morning routine. How much more water would you have to carry home to get through the rest of the day? To wash clothes? To care for a family?

Would you wash yourself and the things around you as often? Would you even drink a glass of water without a second thought?

Who would carry all that water for the family?

Now, granted, if you had to carry your water, you wouldn’t have a shower to bathe in or even a toilet to flush. This would require less water but would cause another host of problems, as without proper toilets, the water you carry home might not even be clean. Without proper sanitation systems, human waste easily seeps into the water supply. This takes the problem far beyond convenience.

According to the World Health Organization in a 2008 report, only about 60 percent of the world uses a sanitation facility that ensures hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact. For the other 40 percent or so, this contamination spreads diseases … often with fatal results. According to the United Nations, diarrhea-related diseases are the second most common cause of death in children younger than 5, and of these deaths, 88 percent are caused by lack of sanitation, poor hygiene and contaminated drinking water.

Nearly 900 million people in the world do not have access to safe water supplies – about one in eight people. According to the World Health Organization, about 3.5 million people die from the resulting diseases each year.

So the water you carefully carried home over your shoulders has an excellent chance of harboring bacteria that could kill your children.
Islamic Relief is helping people in situations like this, and you can help too.
Islamic Relief is carrying out water and sanitation projects around the world. One of these projects is being implemented in Yemen, where water is a major concern for most rural communities. In one region called Al Farsha in particular, war in the early 1990s damaged so much of the infrastructure that nearly the entire population lost access to sanitary water. From 1994 until recently, the locals got their water by digging wells by hand – sometimes to a depth of more than 100 feet. The water from these crudely constructed wells was salty and contaminated with bacteria, so diarrhea and other waterborne diseases became common. Men spent their days trying to earn money, and it was women and girls who painfully carried the water home from the wells, balancing the weight on their heads. This took much of their days. Partly as a result, three-quarters of women there are illiterate.

Islamic Relief launched a project to provide safe water to the households in Al Farsha. Teams are digging modern wells and building infrastructure to bring the clean water right to local homes. This yearlong project began in 2010 and will benefit more than 7,000 people.

A similar project is under way in Mali, another country where women and girls spend much of their time carrying water – which is often contaminated – from wells at times miles from home. Islamic Relief began a water and sanitation project in Mali last year, and by 2012, clean water and improved sanitation facilities will be accessible to an additional 25,000 people.

These are just two of Islamic Relief’s many development projects. Islamic Relief implemented a similar water and sanitation project in China and is also helping to provide modern wells in Pakistan following the destructive floods in summer 2010.

A clean water supply means better health. It means less pain. It means more time for school or work. For so many people, it would mean the world.

These projects are run with the support of donors like you. Help Islamic Relief continue these efforts. Please donate today.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

IR USA's CEO meets with officials in Egypt

March 17, 2011 -- Islamic Relief USA’s CEO, Abed Ayoub, is in Egypt this week, meeting with high-level officials in an effort to expand IR’s programs to help the needy in the country and throughout the region.

Ayoub has met with Minister of Health Ashraf Hatem, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa and Al-Azhar Shaykh Ahmed el-Tayeb and has scheduled a meeting later this week with Minister of Development Gouda Abdel Khalek.

Ayoub and Hatem discussed plans Islamic Relief will explore implementing in cooperation with the health ministry. Among them:

• Send a shipment of medicine to clinics and hospitals. “Together we will decide the clinics and hospitals where they will be distributed,” Ayoub said.

• Send supplies such as wheelchairs, emergency kits, hygiene kits, blankets and milk powder to refugees who fled violence in Libya and crossed into Egypt.

• Send doctors to perform surgeries and train local physicians in remote villages in Egypt

In the other meetings, Ayoub said he received the support of the grand mufti and Al-Azhar’s imam for projects in Egypt such as support for families and orphans. “Insha Allah, together we will start developing projects,” he said. “They will help us to identify the needy families.”

During his trip, Ayoub traveled to many cities in Egypt and also visited refugees at the Libya-Egypt border, where an Islamic Relief team met with the Egyptian Red Crescent.

Although there are almost 1,500 refugees in the border region, Ayoub said, “The atmosphere is quiet.” The refugees there now are mainly from Chad, Somalia and Bangladesh, he said. “The refugees from Egypt and Libya and other countries – their embassies came and took care of them,” Ayoub said. But the remaining refuges are stuck at the border, where they have been for three weeks.

“The situation is really bad,” he said. “They sleep on the street. They are hoping things will settle down in Libya. They want to go back to Libya and don’t want to leave the border.”

Inside Egypt, Ayoub said the atmosphere is quiet as well, as a vote on changes to the constitution nears.

“The Egyptians welcomed us with open arms,” Ayoub said. “They want more involvement from the NGOs.”

Ayoub traveled with the Islamic Relief team to areas including Al-Ayat and Bani Swaif to distribute food packages. “We’ve seen people living in very bad shape and they need a lot of help,” he said. “We’ve seen families live on 20 L.E., or $5 per month. We’ve seen a lot of people with no income -- large families with no income. They barely can get enough bread.”

One woman Ayoub met was an elderly woman in great need. “She is 106 years old -- she is legally blind. And she lives by herself. She’s in a very bad condition. Her neighbors come and help her a little bit. She barely can walk. When you see her you will cry.”

The Islamic Relief team brought her food packages with staples like rice, pasta, sugar and oil, and gave her clothes. “We gave them to her daughter who lives next to her so she can insha Allah cook for her.”

The team is now in Southern Egypt, where another food distribution is planned for today.

Friday, March 11, 2011

IR distributes food to 500 families in Egypt

On Thursday, March 10, Islamic Relief aid workers responded to immense need and distributed food parcels to 500 impoverished families south of Cairo, Egypt, in the city of Minya.

More than 10 million Egyptians cannot meet their daily food needs, according to the United Nations.

Impoverished Egyptians have been hard hit by spikes in the cost of their basic supplies such as rice, meat, vegetables and cooking oil. Vulnerable families are struggling to find enough food each day. They are becoming poorer and hungrier.

Islamic Relief is working to provide 2,000 families with basic food items.

This effort is helping people like Oum al-Hana, an 85-year-old widow. Her only income is about $11 a month given to her by a nearby mosque.

“I never thought that the day would come that I would not be able to go to the market and buy food,” she told an Islamic Relief aid worker. “Or that I would spend night over night with only a bite of bread and a glass of water. I cannot even remember the last time I tasted meat or the last time I ate cheese or drank milk. But what do they say, that ‘the hungry man always dreams of food’ … well, this exactly applies to me.

The parcels distributed by Islamic Relief include rice, sugar, macaroni, beans, lentils, salt, tea, tomato paste, cooking oil and canned meat. Each parcel weighs about 100 pounds and can feed five people for two months.

More food will be distributed March 12.

IR monitoring situation: Pacific Rim tsunami

A massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of Japan, and an ensuing tsunami is sweeping the north-east of the country.

It is feared that the tsunami will continue to advance upon a wider region stretching as wide as Indonesia in the west, through to South America in the east.

Islamic Relief, which has several offices in the region – including China, Indonesia and Malaysia - is monitoring the developing situation closely, and determining where we could potentially offer humanitarian assistance.

For more updates sign up for our e-mail list, follow us on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Aid worker diary: Joining hands to help Libya's refugees

IR USA staff member Seyed Mowlana has been sending diary entries from the Libyan border in Tunisia, where Islamic Relief is managing a refugee camp housing 15,000 displaced persons. Below are excerpts from Seyed's last diary entry before leaving Tunisia.

It’s still a sad scene at the camps as the numbers multiply but the situation at the campgrounds has seen tremendous improvement. In the last five days, a drastic change has occurred as toilets are being built and more tents have been added at a faster pace. Even the number of volunteers has grown.

I was very impressed with the amount of local Tunisians that came into the camp grounds, travel for hours, just to give a helping hand. I see so many dedicated and caring volunteers diligently working to improve the campgrounds and care for the refugees. The number of volunteers from Islamic Relief alone was quite evident. Wherever you looked you could notice the neon green vests with the IR logo, with volunteers handing out food and water.

I feel sad to leave Tunisia after being exposed to so much camaraderie and strength from people who have yet to find their way home. It gives me some relief to see so many volunteers out there making things happen, and knowing that Islamic Relief doesn’t sleep and will continue to aid those in need.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

U.S. Officials praise IR’s work after visit to refugee camp on Libyan border

March 9, 2011- U.S. officials today praised Islamic Relief’s work of camp management after visiting a refugee camp near the Libyan border in Tunisia.

Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Eric Schwartz and Assistant Administrator of USAID Nancy Lindborg, along with the United States Ambassador to Tunisia Gordon Gray– met with IR USA VP of Programs Adnan Ansari at a camp housing 15,000 refugees near the Tunisia-Libya border. The delegation members said the conditions were good, and they had high praise for the response to the Libya humanitarian crisis.

Islamic Relief is supporting UNHCR in managing the camp. Islamic Relief has been helping in directing the flow of refugees at the camp, pitching and organizing the tents, providing water and sanitation facilities in addition to distributing food to the refugees as they cross the border.

“We’re trying to make the refugees’ lives as comfortable as possible,” Ansari said. “We’re trying to bring order to all the chaos.”

The delegation also surveyed the camp’s facilities. Ansari introduced the officials to some of Islamic Relief’s beneficiaries, including refugees resting in their transitional shelters and others standing in the food distribution line. Later that afternoon, Islamic Relief joined other NGOs and met with the officials to discuss contingency plans in case more refugees cross the border.

Islamic Relief is currently working to facilitate the repatriation of as many refugees as possible and is preparing for a potential humanitarian intervention inside Libya.

For more information about Islamic Relief’s response, click here.

Support Islamic Relief’s Libya Humanitarian Relief fund. Donate today.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

IR USA commemorates International Women's Day

Among Islamic Relief programs that help women are water-assistance efforts that relieve women from the burden of collecting and carrying water from far-away wells each day, freeing them to instead pursue income-generating work. Photo by Mohammad Mertaban (© Islamic Relief USA)

In honor of International Women’s Day March 8, Islamic Relief is marking the day by sharing the work we do all year to help women around the world improve their lives.

Islamic Relief’s education projects, water and sanitation initiatives, and livelihood improvement programs target women in some of the most marginalized and neglected communities. From China to the United States, Islamic Relief USA’s projects mobilize, educate and empower women to be leaders in the development of their societies.

One of Islamic Relief’s newest programs, which began last year, will educate 900 women in central Afghanistan, helping them become literate by mid-2012. In the Bamyan province, where this effort is focused, less than one-quarter of the population is literate. The project is helping give the gift of literacy to women through a home-based program that is also helping them learn how to start businesses.

Another program in Afghanistan is providing modern looms to women who have long worked rugs using old-fashioned looms that left them with chronic back pain. The new looms alleviate women’s discomfort as they do work that allows them to earn money to improve their own lives and that of their families.

In other countries including Yemen and China, Islamic Relief projects are improving access to sanitary water. This improves hygiene and health for all residents of the area, but in even more ways, it benefits girls and women, who often are the ones who fetch the water. The time-consuming, difficult and sometimes dangerous task of collecting water and carrying it long distances forces many girls to skip or leave school and prevents women from doing work to earn money. In the Al Farsha region of Yemen, where a water project is taking place in 20 villages, three-quarters of women are illiterate. The water project has allowed more girls to stay in school and freed up time for more women to pursue income-generating work. These water projects have benefited thousands and continue to help more people each day.

Islamic Relief is also helping women here in the United States. In 2009-2010, Islamic Relief has supported two Baltimore women’s shelters as well as a program fighting domestic violence in Indiana, to aid those who need a guiding hand as they get back on their feet in the wake of personal challenges.

As Islamic Relief continues these and other projects around the world, every day is women’s day.

For more information about Islamic Relief’s work, please visit our “What We Do” page.

Support Islamic Relief’s work, donate today.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Aid worker diary: Tense situations

IR USA staff member Seyed Mowlana is on the Libyan border in Tunisia. He is reporting his experience daily. Below are excerpts from his latest diary entry.

March 6, 2011

The sound of gunfire rattled the air, bringing the swarm of people at the Libyan border to attention. As I made my way through the crowd to assess the scene, it appeared that the shots were fired in order to control the crowd.

Some people noticed me filming and soon approached, grabbing me by the neck, and began speaking to me in Arabic in a threatening manner. Someone nearby came to my rescue speaking in Arabic and somehow diffused the situation. At that point, I decided to observe from a distance and noticed another crowd that had other issues to deal with.

A few Egyptians had just crossed the border exhausted and angered at what they had to experience on the way. They complained, as many others had before them, about all their money and belongings being taken away from them at the Libyan border. I wasn’t able to talk to them long because media control stepped in, rushing them into their buses.

Meanwhile at the campgrounds, many refugees still waited for word on their future, hoping they would soon be able to make it back home. People poured in daily, and as the numbers increased so did the need for supplies. The UN started expansion on the campgrounds in order to accommodate the refugees flowing in. So many people are still facing a fate in limbo.

Islamic Relief and other organizations are helping people at the border. We are providing shelter, food, water and hygiene items. But so many people are still flooding in each day, and many of them have nothing. I hope we can help them, but of course that depends on support from donors.

To read more about Islamic Relief's response in Libya, click here.

The need is urgent. Donate today.

For more up-to-the-minute updates, follow Islamic Relief USA on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Aid worker diary: IR USA at Libyan border

IR USA staff member Seyed Mowlana is at the Libyan border in Tunisia, assisting with Islamic Relief's efforts to aid Libya's refugees. Below, he shares his reaction to what he is seeing.

March 5, 2011

As we reached the end of our journey for the day, heading into Ras Jedir, a city bordering Libya, appearing before us were large groups of people on foot
attempting to cross into Tunisia.

I couldn’t help but notice the diversity of the crowd, and how the turmoil they left behind -and the trouble they were yet to face - had brought them so close together.

The businessmen and the street vendors now walking side by side, some with nothing but the clothes on their backs hoping Tunisia would have a better future to offer them.

Unfortunately, they still have a trying journey ahead.

There are a growing number of displaced refugees who are in need of shelter.

The numbers are rising daily, and 12,000 of those refugees are from Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are currently experiencing the utmost difficulty with poor living conditions in their camps.

These expatriates have hardly any food or water as they wait eagerly for their departure back to their homeland.

I had the opportunity to speak with one man who had just crossed the border describing his poor working conditions. He went on to say how a man had taken his cell phone and all the cash on him leaving him with absolutely nothing.

Yet this man still had a smile across his face praising God for bringing him to safety.

Islamic Relief is currently assisting with the logistics of getting these refugees back home safely as well as providing them shelter by setting up camps with much needed food and water.

This is the first day I have been here to experience the poverty and the dire need of these strong individuals looking for a better path to travel on, and I can only imagine what they have had to endure to get to this point.

One thing is certain, they have a strong belief that there is a better future awaiting them and their hope that relief is near. This is where we all step in and unite to make
this a reality.

Click here to read more about Islamic Relief's response in Libya.

To donate, click here.

To stay updated on Seyed's experiences in the field: Follow us on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Aid worker diary: The simple things

Islamic Relief aid worker Salah Aboulgasem is currently at the border of Tunisia and Libya, delivering aid. Follow his regular blog.

03 March 2011

Saad and Imaad are two men from villages of Egypt who had been working just outside of Tripoli in Libya for the past two years to support their families. I sat with them for a while to understand their story and their needs. As we talked, the sun began to set and the cold began to take its place. You would think in the Middle East the weather would be constantly warm, but everyone here wraps up as much as possible by nightfall as the temperature plummets. The cold here is probably the one thing that reminds me of home.

Imagine sleeping outside in the cold open air, with strangers all around you and rubbish and dirt in every direction. It was also quite windy today so the sand was blowing in our faces. As I sit now writing this, I can feel the grains of sand in my hair, and I all I want to do is wash it out. It makes me think how those who have been here for weeks have survived. They have had to be so patient with everything that is happening with them.

The volunteers with us have been working endlessly for days, obviously getting extremely tired but still managing to carry on. To keep their spirits high, we began a small game of soccer while they were on a break. It was beautiful to see how people who just a few days ago didn’t know each other at all were now playing together as a team. It also amused us to see how so many of the young men around began to gather wanting to join the game. Such a simple way to distract everyone from the reality they were in.

People continue to stream in from the border and continue to need our assistance, so please help us to help them by giving generously and keeping the people of Libya in your prayers.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Aid worker diary: Supporting refugees crossing into Tunisia

Islamic Relief aid worker Salah Aboulgasem (not pictured above) is currently in Tunisia, delivering aid to refugees escaping the violence in Libya. Below is an excerpt from his latest diary entry.

2 March 2011

Today we arrived in Tunisia, and even after traveling all night to catch our flight from Egypt, we still had a long journey ahead of us. Within 24 hours, we had been to three different countries.

When we arrived in Tunisia, we were greeted by dedicated volunteers, willing to give up their time for the cause. They offered to drive with us on the six-hour journey to help with the work and to deliver the aid we had prepared. We headed in the direction of the Libyan border to an area named Ben Gardane. Even though I had never met these volunteers before, after traveling with them across the Tunisian roads, we discovered that although we lived completely different lives, we all took pleasure in serving others in humanity. We ended the journey feeling the unity of brotherhood, almost as if this was simply another journey of many that we had previously shared before.

As we began to drive closer to the border, from approximately two miles away, the signs of the numbers of people affected started becoming clear. People have constructed makeshift shelters for the time being until they figure out what their next move will be. I wouldn’t describe these as tents but literally just shelters to keep them dry from the rain and shaded from the sun. Some were made from plastic sheets, whereas others used whatever resources they could find around them, such as canvases or trees. The nationalities of these people vary: Many are Egyptian but there are also other Africans and East Asians amongst them. All these people were not prepared for these events and literally have nowhere else to turn. All they can do is sit and wait for the events to unfold.

Closer to the border, in every direction we looked, thousands were sitting and waiting for their next point of action. No matter what direction you looked all you could see was an endless sea of faces. Those on the Libyan side were just praying they would be of the next group allowed into Tunisia, whereas those on the Tunisian side were looking around trying to figure out where to go from there. The business of the area was clear to see. Everyone had their own direction to sail, but they were all on the same boat.

We stopped to speak to some individuals, asking them to explain their situations. It came as a great shock to all of us on the Islamic Relief team when some explained that they had been there for days; one man even told us that he had been there for nine days and had nothing but the clothes he was wearing. The basic essentials were all that was around them.

Personally, I am used to planning days, weeks and even months in advance to make arrangements. I could not imagine having to pick up and go, leaving everything I had worked for behind, because it was the safest thing to do. I am sure you can imagine and understand the anxiety that must accompany this kind of disturbance to everyday life. And on top of that, the lack of comfort psychologically as well as physically just intensifies the tension. Although some take things day by day to keep their spirits up, the atmosphere is tense.

As night falls and the temperature begins to drop, we start to see small fires being set up to keep people warm. After the heavy rainfall over the past few days, the sand and dust has simply turned to mud. The mud is evident on the clothes and faces of the people around, and with very few hygiene facilities, people do not get a chance to shower and wash it away but simply have to live in the dirt for another day. As there are so many people and a fully functioning trash-collecting system hasn’t been set up, the evidence of the numbers can be seen by the waste filling the area.

The entrance of the people coming in from Libya -- a constant flow being let in, small groups at a time -- shows tired and exhausted people, some injured from the violence, many in pain from the amount of walking they have had to do. Although there are already thousands that have crossed the border, little by little, more people are granted access to join them. It is surreal to know that just in front of me is the country of Libya that so many are trying to leave, and only a few yards away is the country of Tunisia, where so many have fled and still so many more are trying to get into. Across the border you can hear the chants of those praying to leave getting louder and louder as they call “Ya Allah,” and as more and more people in the distance call out as well, the echo begins to travel.

As we observe the people who have made it across, we see that all those around us are hungry, tired and disgusted by the smell in the area. The smell is a mixture of dampness, garbage and evidence of lack of washing facilities. The combination of all these small factors continues to strain people. It is difficult.

Islamic Relief has begun distributing individual food packs and hygiene kits. Today these have been delivered to more than 3,000 individuals. The joy that you receive being able to deliver this type of help to people who really need it is indescribable. There are more than 20 Tunisian volunteers with the Islamic Relief staff who have really demonstrated their abilities and proved the importance of neighbors. They have been working alongside us to ensure as much aid can be given as possible. Even though the food packs, hygiene kits and assistance with carrying bags and carrying injured people to ambulances -- all the services we are providing -- are very basic, we are also giving the people hope. They don’t know how drastically things can change -- they don’t even know where their next meal will be from -- but at that moment when they are given any kind of gift, they know they can still continue.

When they see that there are people outside of Libya who know about them and care for their welfare, they continue to believe that they can get through this. Even
though there is hardship and difficulty -- people sleeping on the hard floors, people soaked by the rain, people with no clothes to change into -- they still manage to smile. The hadith of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that “even a smile is charity” really becomes proven in situations like this. When you receive a smile from someone, that means that they are still believing, and when you share a smile with another, you give them something to believe in.

Tomorrow we hope to insha-Allah set up a camp at the site and continue to distribute food packs and hygiene kits to those who have not yet received anything. We can only pray that the weather works in our favor and that the rain does not continue to fall as heavily has it has been. It’s a difficult situation to be in for all these people.

Please help support them.

Read more about Islamic Relief's response to the crisis in Libya.

Donate today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Aid worker diary: Eyewitness to the destruction

Islamic Relief aid worker, Salah Aboulgasem (not pictured above) is currently in Libya, delivering aid on the border area with Tunisia. Below is a diary entry before he and the IR team embarked from Eastern Libya to the west.
27 February 2011

In Benghazi, our day began with the encouraging site of young people out on the streets helping to keep the city functioning, directing traffic and picking rubbish from the streets and setting up guards for the various neighbourhoods .

As we looked around the city in the day light, in every direction there was evidence of the violence that had gone on over the past weeks. Cars burnt out and left abandoned on the side of the road, bullet holes in various walls and buildings painted with ash after being set alight.

As we arrived to the hospital, volunteers came to help us unload equipment so we could get set up as soon as possible and have the hospital fully functioning once again. The volunteers helped unload the four vans worth of medical equipment into the hospital which was put to use straight away.

As the rain poured down outside, the hospital was in full operation.

Outside, even though the streets were becoming filled with water, the young people maintained their positions and continued in their tasks. I feel inspired by these ordinary citizens that have seen tasks that need to be completed and have taken it upon themselves to help.

The situation here seems relatively stable, whereas our assessments on the Tunisian border indicate that we need to focus our intervention to an increasingly unstable situation there.

Therefore, I intend to travel back to Cairo and then to Tunisia to join our team on the Libya border.