Government criticised for ‘paltry bone-throwing’ humanitarian aid to Libya

Last month Barack Obama hit out at the "shit show" created in Libya

David Cameron addresses the crowds in Victory Square in Libya, 2011
David Cameron addresses the crowds in Victory Square in Libya, 2011

David Cameron's handling of the Libyan crisis was dealt another blow today after humanitarian efforts by the UK were branded as “paltry bone-throwing” by a United Nations insider.

Just weeks after the US President Barack Obama singled out the Prime Minister, suggesting he had taken his eye off Libya after being “distracted by a range of other things”, the fresh criticism will be a source of further embarrassment for Downing Street.

According to the Observer, despite urgent calls to provide humanitarian assistance to an estimated 2.4 million Libyans in need of aid, the Department for International Development (DfID) has set aside just £50,000 in aid this financial year to avoid food and medicine shortages in the country.

Speaking to the newspaper, a United Nations source said there was disappointment at the “paltry bone-throwing from a European country whose bombers reaped so much destruction in Libya just five years ago.”

Stephen Gethins, an SNP MP and member of the foreign affairs select committee, added: “The government’s intention to spend just £50,000 [for an adviser] on humanitarian aid following their bombing campaign of £320m is nothing short of disastrous in Libya.

“Not only did the government undertake military action with little in the way of long-term planning, but it saw the UK spend 13 times more bombing the country than in reconstruction efforts in the four years after that, with the people of the country paying a heavy price.”

The comments come only weeks after frank remarks from Mr Obama who sharply criticised Mr Cameron for the UK’s role in allowing Libya to become a “shit show” after the fall of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

He added: "Your friends in Britain and France will stand with you as you build your democracy."

Mr Obama said that following a successful military intervention to aid rebels during the 2011 Arab Spring revolt, Libya was left to spiral out of control – due largely to the inaction of America’s European allies.

In a candid US magazine interview, Mr Obama said: “When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong… there’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up.”

The Prime Minister led international efforts, with France, to back rebels fighting to overthrow Gaddafi and impose a no-fly zone over the country. In a speech, in 2011, to cheering crowds in Benghazi's Tahrir square, after Gaddafi had been ousted, Mr Cameron said at the time: "Your city was an example to the world as you threw off a dictator and chose freedom."

A spokesperson for the DfID said to the Independent: “This government has made substantial efforts to help the people of Libya during the recent humanitarian crisis. In the financial year of 2015/16 alone, the UK government spent over £4m providing humanitarian relief and protection to vulnerable populations in Libya. In addition, the UK government has allocated a further £10m to the Libyan response for 2016/17.

"The UK and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) plan to co-host a Senior Officials Meeting in Tunis on the 12th April, where a package of international assistance will be agreed from the international community to the new Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA). As this financial year gets underway we will keep the humanitarian situation in Libya under review and adapt our response in order to meet humanitarian needs."

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