COVID-19 impacts on people across Libya
As of 28 April 2020, the Libyan National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reports 61 conﬁrmed cases, including two COVID-related deaths, in Libya. Testing remains low, only 18,00 tests to date. The majority of new conﬁrmed cases are people who have come into contact with conﬁrmed cases, conﬁrming local transmission. Strong prevention measures border closures, restricted movement, closures of schools, restaurants, etc.) remain in place. As a result, many people’s lives and livelihoods are being affected, with low-income families and other vulnerable groups particularly impacted.
Many Libyans, migrants and refugees remain anxious about COVID-19 and what they should do to protect themselves. The Inter-Agency Common Feedback Mechanism’s call centre has received nearly 11,500 calls since the beginning of the pandemic. The majority of calls are from people seeking information on the disease, how they can protect themselves, or information on where to go for medical assistance. The remaining calls are from people reporting symptoms and seeking assistance.
Libya relies heavily on imports for food and other goods. Diminished exports from other countries, along with movement restrictions have reduced the availability of food and other goods and led to higher prices. Recent markets assessments have reported prices increase and price spikes for many essential goods since the imposition of a lock down/curfews. According to the assessment, 48 per cent of assessed cities reported food shortages and 86 per cent reported food price spikes. Some locations reported price increases of 500-900 per cent, with authorities intervening to correct price hikes. In addition to food increased prices have also been reported in basic non-food items, such as hygiene and cleaning products, as well as for fuel.
Many IDPs, migrants and returnees, live in sub-standard housing or informal settlements which hinder their ability to adopt social distancing measures and limits their access to functional basic services and essential household necessities. With increasing prices of food and basic commodities many IDPs may struggle to afford higher prices in addition to rent, putting them at higher risk of eviction.
Food production has also been impacted, particularly in the South, with reported shortages of labour and the ability to access markets due to movement restrictions. This resulted in lower production as well as increased food wastage. This particularly impacts those who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, such as smallholder farming families and migrants who engage in daily labour. In addition to those in the agriculture sector, many people engaged in the informal sector have also been signiﬁcantly impacted.
Women are more at risk of lost income as a large amount of women's income is earned through the informal economy which has been impacted by movement restrictions and shutdowns. In a recent UN Women survey, 52 per cent of surveyed women indicated that their work had already been affected and 26 per cent believed that their source of livelihood would be affected if curfews were extended.
While movement restrictions impact all people across Libya, different restrictions and the ability of authorities to enforce them have resulted in different experiences. Some vulnerable groups are more at risk from movement restrictions. For example, migrants with an irregular status are more at risk of being detained or deported with increased police and military presence. As a result, many reported being reluctant to leave their homes for fear of being detained and/or deported, hindering their access to assistance.
Other groups, such as people with disabilities struggle to continue to access the necessary health care and other support services. In a recent survey, 49 per cent of respondents reported having a person with a disability in the family. Health services for women were also expected to be more diﬃcult, with 71 per cent of the female respondents expressing concerns regarding their access to healthcare, both due to the reliance on male family members to accompany them and a lack of capacity in health facilities to ﬁght COVID-19 as well as continue to provide other essential services. This includes critical protection-related and psychosocial services.
With the lock down/curfews being extended or tightened the risk of domestic violence increases, with women and children most at risk. Seventy per cent of surveyed women reported fears of increased violence due to pressures from curfews. There are also concerns about migrants and refugees who remain in detention centres where people are unable to practice social distance given crowded conditions and have insuﬃcient access to sanitation and health facilities.
In light of the changed conditions due to COVID-19 and the challenges it presents for many people, humanitarian partners are scaling up efforts in preventing and responding to COVID 19 in Libya. To do this, the Health Sector has de veloped a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response plan that calls for US $14.3 million to combat COVID-19. In addition, humanitarian organizations in the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2020 urgently require US $31 million to continue critical activities until June that respond to both direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19.