Situation update - May
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and continued calls for a truce, there has been no stop to the fighting in Libya – rather it has continued to escalate, having terrible consequences for many people.
More than 374,000 people remain displaced across Libya, with around 7,000 people fleeing their homes in April 2020 due to escalating conflict in and around Tripoli. Indiscriminate shelling continues wreak havoc on the health system and causing further death and destruction. In addition to continuing clashes, heatwaves, and water and electricity cuts have exacerbated the difficult living conditions for many people.
In mid-May power cuts were experienced across the West, which also affected many wells and fields of the Man Made River Project. Water supplies were further interrupted by continued incidents of intentional interfering with water infrastructure by armed groups. This resulted in regular disruption to water supplies in the West and South regions, in some cases amid daily temperatures of 40 degrees.
Between 1 January and 21 May 2020, UNSMIL documented preliminary figure of 344 civilian casualties (114 deaths and 230 injuries). The victims include 234 men (83 deaths and 151 injuries), 50 women (15 deaths and 35 injuries), 48 boys (11 deaths and 37 injuries) and 12 girls (five deaths and seven injuries). In a particularly concerning incident, on 16 May, shelling struck a shelter hosting around 1,200 displaced people and migrants in Tripoli's al-Furnaj district, killing at least seven people and injuring 17 others.
There have been 20 attacks (direct and indirect) on health workers, ambulances and facilities recorded this year – in clear violation of International Humanitarian Law. At least 13 incidents were recorded in April and May alone, with the majority in the West. On 14 May, the Central Tripoli Hospital, one of the city’s largest health facilities was damaged by shelling and al-Khadra Hospital was one of the assigned health facilities to receive patients infected with COVID-19. But attacks are not isolated to the West. On 10 May, an armed group opened fire inside the intensive care unit in al-Jalla hospital in Benghazi, damaging equipment.
Amid continued insecurity and COVID-19, safeguarding people's lives, respecting and protecting their human rights, and ensuring their wellbeing has often been disregarded. The risks faced by refugees and migrants in Libya was further highlighted by the killing 30 migrants and injury of 11 others and a smuggling centre in Mezda, near Gharyan, southwest of Tripoli.
In Libya, the continued arbitrary detention of thousands of migrants and refugees in both formal centres and informal smuggler sites is a critical concern. There are more than 654,000 migrants and refugees in Libya; many who face arbitrary detention, gender-based violence, forced labour, extortion and exploitation. Human trafficking and smuggling constitute a grave violation of international human rights law and those responsible held accountable.
The impact of COVID-19 has also had an increasingly negative impact on people’s livelihoods and their ability to meet their basic needs and access essential services. A significant contributing factor to people’s ability to meet their needs has been access to livelihoods, which have been severely affected by movement restrictions and curfews implemented to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix COVID-19 mobility tracking report from 16 May 2020 found that in 93 per cent of the municipalities assessed in the last two weeks of April 2020, casual labour opportunities for migrants had significantly reduced due to the movement restrictions and a slowdown in economic activity.
In the same survey, 24 per cent of migrants reported being unemployed during April 2020, an increase of 7 per cent over Jan-Feb 2020. The situation was also bleak for many Libyans, with 56 per cent of assessed location residents, including IDPs and host community members depending on daily wages, reportedly affected by the loss of employment opportunities.
Access to livelihoods is critical – many displaced and low income families, as well as migrants and refugees living in urban communities who are living in precarious housing arrangements. Without access to livelihoods, and the ongoing liquidity crisis many are unable to cover their rent and are therefore are at increasing risk of eviction.
The humanitarian community continues to provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable populations who have been impacted by COVID-19 or ongoing insecurity. This includes people who have been displaced, women and children, as well as migrants and refugees.
Between January and March 2020, UN agencies, international and national NGOs have reached more than 170,000 people across the country with some form of humanitarian assistance.
This includes 80,000 people who received unconditional food assistance through either in-kind or cash-based transfers and nearly 23,000 people received non-food items (NFIs) such as hygiene kits, mattresses, jerry cans and clothing. More than 13,200 people received specialized protection services, such as general protection, gender-based violence and child protection services, and including psycho-social support. Health sector partners enabled access to health services through more than 36,200 medical procedures. Additionally, basic WASH facilities in schools and health centres continued to be supported, reaching over 19,000 people.