Situation Report
Hawaia waiting to receive her parcel during a UNHCR/WFP food distribution (OCHA/Jennifer Bose Ratka)
Hawaia waiting to receive her parcel during a UNHCR/WFP food distribution (OCHA/Jennifer Bose Ratka)

Breaking the fast through food distributions

“We eat what we have. Even some bread is enough for me and my daughters,” Hawaia says as she sits down in a chair in the large warehouse, where food distributions for asylum seekers and refugees are taking place. It is the fourth time the single mother of two teenage daughters visited the site to receive food parcels that contain more than just bread. Tuna, chickpeas, date bars and more will meet her family’s needs for the month.

It’s been a long time coming for Hawaia. “I came to Libya three years ago from Sudan. We escaped fighting and I knew it was unsafe for my daughters to stay there. It took us one and a half months to get to Libya. We went to Chad, we rode through the desert on an animal truck, squeezed in with 20-30 camels and sheep, and at some point, I thought we wouldn’t make it at all,” she says.

But life was not easy once she got to Libya. Similar to many other asylum seekers and refugees, Hawaia struggles to make ends meet. “I have tried to find work again but is not possible now due to the coronavirus. I cannot even afford to send my daughters to schools,” she says.

The pandemic has made the daily struggles of refugees and migrants worse and exacerbated the misery of those stranded in the country. People at previous food distributions told staff that while they had managed to find basic daily labouring work before, this had dried up because of reduced economic activity related to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We share an apartment with six other families and currently rely on the help of our neighbors,” Hawaia says. With increasing prices of basic food and commodities, many cannot afford even the most basic costs of day-to-day living. According to a recent migrant report by IOM-DTM, the number of people facing food insecurity in Libya has more than doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2020 as a result of increased prices, restricted freedom of movement and limited income-generating opportunities. This includes people like Hawaia.

To help counter the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, UNHCR together with WFP began a pilot food distribution project in Tripoli during Ramadan last year, aiming to reach some of the most food-insecure refugees with food baskets, later expanding to Zawiya, Misrata, Benghazi and Zwara. By the end of 2020, more than 15,000 individuals were reached. In 2021, UNHCR and WFP aim to reach a similar number.

“Alhamdulillah! [Praise be to God!],” Hawaia exclaims when asked if the food assistance she has received has helped her. “It’s been very helpful to receive the food parcels. Now I am just waiting to hopefully be able to resettle so that my daughters can stay safe and go to school,” she added.