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An update on the humanitarian situation in Libya

A little update on how the Obama administration and the NSC in particular are monitoring the humanitarian issues in Libya. (This is NOT to be confused with the ongoing human-rights violations that the U.S. government is monitoring and chronicling via intelligence agencies for potential future prosecution.)

Officials are preparing for a full-fledged "humanitarian crisis," but emphasize that it's not at that point yet -- not even close -- meaning people still have access to basics like food and water. In fact, there's a surprising amount of optimism about the situation... FOR NOW, depending on Khadaffy.

The greatest need: medical supplies; a close second are medical personnel.

Right now, senior aides tell me a slew of Egyptian doctors are going across the border and performing heroic work. One person called these folks the "unsung heroes" so far.

But the bottom line is clinics inside Libya are completely overrun and the need for supplies and doctors is great. A few NGOs have gone in (they prefer not to name them for safety reasons), and all of this is happening via the Egyptian border.

There are three challenges the Obama administration foresees going forward:

1) continuing violence strains an already overloaded ad-hoc medical system;

2) fear that the country's supply lines for basics like food and water get cut off (so far, that hasn't happened but if the violence continues, they assume it happens);

3) a steady flow of information (we in our news organization realize this problem, and they have it, too; that said, the informal communication system that's formed to deliver information to folks across the border to Egypt and then relay it around the world has been working surprisingly well, so one aide said to me).

Right now, the United Nations has spent more time pulling its folks out, but the Obama administration and other countries are pressuring the U.N. to get their humanitarian teams ready to go in. The U.N. is usually hesitant about going into a country without permission apparently.

One FINAL reason for optimism about being able to prevent a full-fledged humanitarian crisis in the country: The relative open borders of Tunisia and Egypt will make it fairly easy to get NGOs and supplies into the country.

Of course, the biggest caveat is Khadaffy and how violent he gets.