DUBAI // Volunteers from the Libyan community in the UAE have raised more thanáDh1.8 million to buy medical supplies for their countrymen in light of the deepening political crisis there.
More than 1,000 people are believed to have been killed and more have been injured since demonstrations against Muammar Qaddafi began last week.
"We know of people who died from minor injuries due to the lack of supplies," said Salha Mohammed, one of the main organisers of the fund-raising drive.
The initiative was started on Monday by four Libyan expatriates who decided to help their countrymen by calling friends and family and asking them to donate money to buy medicine. They then drove around Dubai and Abu Dhabi to collect the donations.
"We could not just sit and watch the misery of our people on TV; we would break down. That is why we decided to do what we could to help," said Miss Mohammed, a 27-year-old Libyan businesswoman who has lived in Dubai for nine years. Her father and her brother are in Tripoli.
Three of the group members travelled to Egypt to buy medical supplies with the funds they collected while overseeing the transportation of the aid.
The group is co-ordinating with the Arab Doctors Union and consulting with doctors in Libya to find out which supplies are needed.
To date, they have sent two 40ft containers to Benghazi, filled with medical supplies and milk for children.
In an interview from Cairo, Anas Abdul Raoof, 27, a volunteer with the group, said: "The feedback we are getting from doctors inside Libya is that there is a severe shortage of medical supplies, especially first aid, as well as shortage of blood. Because of the security situation in Tripoli we have only been able to deliver aidáto the eastern part of the country."
The men are also trying to collect donated blood in co-ordination with the Egyptian health authorities. "People in Egypt have shown great solidarity for our cause and we were able to collect 700 blood bags in six hours," he said.
The group has relied on social media and word of mouth, since they did not want to fall foul of the UAE's strict charity regulations.
"We have not been able to go public with the donation collections and the funds have come from family and friends because of the rules here," said Mr Mohammed Eldarrat, 29, one of the group's founders. "But we are trying to find a charity body in the UAE that is willing to recognise our cause and open a bank account which we can channel donations into."