Spotlight on supporting safe and dignified housing for returns
The beginning of 2021 witnessed general improvements in the security situation, opening access for displaced Libyans to return to their areas of origin. Nearly 65,000 displaced persons have returned since the start of the year, reducing the number of internally displaced people from 278,000 in December 2020 to 213,000 by the end of June 2021. Some 88 per cent of the displaced returned to their original homes, many of which were significantly damaged during the conflict, while thousands of Libyans are still unable to return due to damaged homes and the lack of basic services, such as electricity, water supply and waste management facilities. As reported in IOM’s DTM Round 37, damage to public infrastructure and housing remain the main obstacles preventing the return of most families displaced in Libya.
Not all returns have been voluntary, as evictions, especially from IDP settlements, leave vulnerable populations with limited choices to either source housing at prohibitive rates or to return to their place of origin, often with no support from the government. The presence and risk of exposure to explosive hazards coupled with the lack of a government strategy on rehabilitating basic services, have added extra demands on the Shelter/Non-food Items (SNFI) sector, as support for shelter remains a top priority among affected populations. This is especially the case in Tawergha, where more families are returning despite the area having suffered extensive damage over the past decade. With the national budget for Libya yet to be approved and rehabilitation funds directed to a limited number of areas through special measures, there is little clarity on the type of assistance or compensation many displaced people can expect from the government to rebuild their communities.
The Shelter/NFI sector, chaired by UNHCR, works with three main implementing partners in the housing sector: Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), UNHCR and Danish Refugee Council (DRC), repairing houses in areas around Tripoli and Benghazi and aims to assist more than 5,000 people in 2021.
In the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), the sector identified 374,000 people in need of shelter and or NFI support, through the implementation of seven projects across Libya, with the aim of improving physical living conditions, promoting a dignified and safe access to adequate and secure accommodation, as well as building resilience of targeted populations by improving living conditions. In addition, the SNFI sector distributes core relief items for migrants and refugees at disembarkation points and those held in detention centers. The SNFI sector also recently partnered with the Protection sector to assess and ensure targeted assistance for those affected by evictions.
With the rate of returns this year, the SNFI sector has focused on ensuring that initial surveys on housing requirements are being completed to help to identify the type of support required. Current planning includes projects involving housing rehabilitation; technical assessments in informal sites and shelter units for IDPs, and migrant settlements; and basic repairs for infrastructure, such as water pumping stations and health facilities. NRC, in partnership with UNHCR, will rehabilitate some 65 houses in the Al Sabri neighborhood in Benghazi, which suffered considerable damage and is currently implementing several infrastructure projects in Tripoli and Benghazi. In addition, the cash for rent modality has proven to be a successful form of assistance. The sector has also been distributing winterization kits for households to prepare for the winter months, with the provision of essential household items, such as, heating/insolation needs, blankets, clothing, etc.
To date, the SNFI sector has reached more than 84,000 people, 44 per cent of whom are IDPs, with NFI and basic shelter assistance. Focus on returnee locations also requires targeted attention in building national capabilities, to ensure that the necessary infrastructures to enable safe and dignified living standards are in place.