Disasters amid civil war / Failure to govern heightens misery among the people

In countries where the government is not functioning due to civil war or other causes, the damage from disasters and the pain felt by the people are greater. The tragedy in Libya has clearly demonstrated the presence of these risks in failed states.

In September, the North African country of Libya was hit by massive flooding, and the damage has continued to spread. More than 4,300 people have died and more than 8,500 are missing, and infectious diseases are reportedly spreading due to poor sanitary conditions.

The United Nations and international aid organizations must coordinate humanitarian assistance from various countries and strengthen efforts to ensure that food, medicine and other supplies reach the affected people.

Libya has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Moammar Gaddafi’s prolonged dictatorship in 2011, due to the influx of Islamist extremists and other factors. Even today, a civil war is raging between the interim government, which controls the western part of the country, and the Libyan National Army (LNA), a military organization based in the east.

The area most severely affected by the flooding was the eastern town of Derna, which is under the control of the LNA. Heavy rains caused two dams in the vicinity to break, and the muddy waters engulfed urban areas.

Experts had been warning for years that the breached dams were in a dangerous condition because necessary repairs had not been made. The information provided and evacuation calls made to residents are also thought to have been inadequate.

Due to the civil war and paralyzed government functions, the safety management of infrastructure was obviously left unattended, and evacuation systems were not in place in the event of a disaster. The flooding must be described as largely a “man-made disaster.”

In the northwestern part of Syria, where a civil war continues, a major earthquake with its focus under Turkey caused serious damage in February. Hospitals were destroyed by years of fighting, and the injured could not be adequately treated due to the lack of medicines.

The northwestern part of Syria is controlled by rebels, and the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad not only neglected to provide relief, but also blocked the delivery of supplies from neighboring Turkey to the affected areas. Many of the roads were damaged in the civil war and by the earthquake, making transportation extremely difficult.

In Afghanistan, which is controlled by the Islamist Taliban, a major earthquake struck the country in June last year but relief efforts to the affected areas were also delayed. On Oct. 7, another earthquake hit the country and the damage has expanded.

The Taliban continue to eliminate people who supported previous administrations with a pro-U.S stance, and it controls the country through a reign of terror. This will make it difficult to establish a system for disaster prevention and support for the victims.

Civil wars and strong-arm rule with no regard for peoples’ livelihoods will hinder the country’s development and bring great misery to the people. The parties involved in Libya, Syria and Afghanistan must open their eyes to their folly.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 17, 2023)