UN refugee agency steps up aid assistance in Libya amid conflict and COVID-19 crisis


During the last two weeks, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has provided emergency assistance to some 3,500 refugees and internally displaced Libyans despite deteriorating security conditions, as well as restrictions on movement due to COVID-19.

The  UNHCR assistance package helped some 1,600 urban refugees, more than 700 refugees being held in detention and close to 1,500 displaced Libyans in different sites across Libya, and included one month’s worth of food and hygiene kits.

Refugees told UNHCR staff they were desperate for help. Many had been supporting themselves through daily labour, which has had to stop because of the curfew and other restrictions related to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before Ramadan, some said they could only afford to eat one meal per day. Others formerly received extra assistance from relatives through international money transfers but were now struggling as this had stopped in recent weeks.

Food prices spiked in most cities in Libya soon after COVID-19 measures were implemented.

Shortages of basic items, such as eggs, vegetables and wheat are being reported in cities across Libya, as the country struggles to import produce in the face of global supply chain breakages and conflict in the western part of the country blocks supply routes.

Prices for hygiene items have gone up by at least 60 per cent, with prices for gloves and masks having more than tripled.

Meanwhile, UNHCR is continuing to provide support to the Libyan authorities and displaced Libyans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ongoing conflict and continued shelling, despite calls for a humanitarian pause, has severely impacted the country’s fragile health system and medical services, which have limited resources and face shortages of basic equipment and medicines.

While many hospitals or health facilities have been damaged or closed, UNHCR and partners continue to conduct public health awareness campaigns amongst refugees and asylum seekers aimed at mitigating the risks of exposure to COVID-19.

UNHCR and partners have also provided generators, ambulances, prefab-containers and tented clinics in support of local healthcare services across the country.

UNHCR echoes the appeal of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres urging warring parties across the world to cease their fighting in support of the response to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNHCR also calls on the international community to come forward with further funding to meet the rising humanitarian needs as result of COVID-19.

As part of the wider UN appeal, UNHCR called on States last week to provide some US$745 million to assist forcibly displaced populations around the world impacted by the pandemic. (Source: UNHCR)