Mpls. aid groups send supplies, relief teams to Libya

Two aid organizations with strong ties to Minnesota have sent supplies and relief teams to Libya over the past two weeks as violence and unrest continue nearly a month after protests against Moammar Gadhafi's regime began.

The American Refugee Committee, an international relief organization based in Minneapolis, has sent its director of program development to lead a team of aid workers on Libya's borders. Medical Teams International, a Portland, Ore.-based group that has a Minneapolis branch, has shipped nearly $1 million in supplies to the country and has sent a medical team of five Los Angeles-based doctors to Benghazi to treat those displaced or wounded in the violence.

The tensions in Libya have forced thousands to flee into Egypt and Tunisia, and many refugees are without basic medical supplies and shelter.

American Refugee Committee spokeswoman Therese Gales said the ARC team headed by Eric James specializes in emergency protection and relief and is meeting with U.N. representatives to determine where the country's needs are. The team arrived in Libya late Monday.

Margaret Li, who heads the Minneapolis branch of Portland-based Medical Teams International, said its latest supplies shipment will provide about 10,000 people with medical care over a period of three months.

The International Red Cross and the Tunisian Red Crescent asked the organization to send a second Interagency Emergency Health Kit to the region earlier this month. The kits, which are approved by the World Health Organization, include basic health care supplies and medications.

"We're working with the health care system to bring even a little comfort," she said. "It's a very dangerous climate. The region desperately needs our attention, and it's not going away without continued assistance from anyone who can help."