Conflict, COVID-19 pandemic threat to civilian lives in Libya


A joint statement by the OCHA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA, WFP, WHO, IOM calls on all parties in Libya to cease hostilities in order to give the civilian population a fighting chance in containing the coronavirus pandemic and assist all the people affected by the conflict.

Since the start of the Libyan civil war nine years ago, close to 400,000 Libyans have been displaced within the country with women and children the most affected.

The constant fighting and the COVID-19 pandemic present a significant threat to the people in Libya.  The health and safety of the country’s entire population are at risk.

Despite repeated calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, including by the United Nations Secretary-General, hostilities continue unabated, hindering access and the delivery of critical humanitarian supplies.

Humanitarian workers face significant challenges every day to carry on with their mission. In March 2020, humanitarian partners reported a total of 851 access constraints on movement of humanitarian personnel and humanitarian items within and into Libya.

The situation for many migrants and refugees is especially alarming.

Since the start of this year, more than 3,200 people have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya. Many end up in one of the eleven official detention centers. Others are taken to facilities or unofficial detention centers to which the humanitarian community does not have access.

The United Nations has repeatedly reiterated that Libya is not a safe port and that persons rescued at sea should not be returned to arbitrary detention.

Women and children continue to bear the brunt of the ongoing armed conflict in Libya: over the past year, the United Nations verified 113 cases of grave violations, including killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools, and health facilities.

Hospitals and health facilities have been targeted by shelling, further disrupting Libya’s fragile health system. Since the beginning of the year, at least 15 attacks have damaged health facilities and ambulances and injured health care workers.

The onset of the coronavirus in Libya poses yet another strain on the already overstretched health system, and further threatens the most vulnerable people in the country.

As of May 13, there were 64 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including three deaths, in different parts of the country. This shows that local/community transmission is taking place.  The risk of further escalation of the outbreak is very high.

Food security, already a challenge, is being compromised by the spread of COVID-19 and its socioeconomic impact on Libyan families. Latest market assessments show that most cities are facing shortages of basic food items coupled with an increase in prices.

Continued support to food security inside the country is essential so that this health crisis does not worsen by becoming a food crisis.

The international community must not turn a blind eye to the conflict in Libya and its catastrophic effect on civilians, including migrants and refugees, across the country. (Source: IOM)