Attacks on water infrastructure put in jeopardy safe water supply for 4 million people
On 24 July, a major leak in the water transmission line in Tazerbo, Benghazi, resulted in the loss of large volumes of water and disruption of service to an estimated 1.5 million, mainly in Benghazi, Ajdabia, Albrega, Sirt and Alabyar. During the month of July, one of the wells along the Man-Made River, Al-Hasawna, Al-Jafara Water System in the western and southern field was destroyed by criminal elements and rendered out of service. The well had a high daily production capacity of over 5000 cubic meters of water, enough to meet the needs of 70,000 of people. Continuous attacks on the main water structures, combined with increasing demands on infection prevention and control due to the pandemic, as well as the deterioration of the WASH infrastructure, poses a number of challenges on the sector in ensuring the delivery of safe water supply and proper waste management systems. According to UNICEF, over four million people, including 1.5 million children will face imminent water problems, leading to a significant decline in services if immediate solutions are not found.
In Libya, approximately, 90 per cent of the population receive their water supply from three key sources: Man-Made River Project (MMRP), providing 60% of the water supply; General Company of Water and Waste Management (well water network); and Desalination Plants (8 plants in total, operating at minimum capacity due to deterioration). An additional 10 per cent rely on borehole drilling. The WASH sector, led by UNICEF, currently works with a number of implementing partners: IOM, Migrace, LSO, DRC, UNHCR and ACF, through nine projects in the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan, targeting 263,000 people, including IDPs, refugees, hosting communities, returnees, and migrants.
To meet the most urgent demands, the sector has been prioritizing the resumption of basic services and the primary rehabilitation of water facilities, including for displaced populations that have returned to their places of origin. However, the poor funding situation, combined with electricity cuts and limited sectoral capacity, have placed further constraints on the sector. So far, the WASH sector is only 31 per cent funded, and with limited prioritization for WASH activities by national counterparts and the lack of technical expertise at the national level, the ability to respond to rising demand is challenging. In June, a mission to Tawergha, where families are already returning due to forced evictions in Tripoli and elsewhere, identified immediate WASH needs, such as water tanks, generators, and water pumps, for schools, health facilities and collective centres. In the South, the dilapidated sanitation system and sewage networks are badly damaged, with municipal leaders requesting support on proper waste management to avoid contamination of the drinking water supply. Additionally, most of the wastewater, some 85 per cent, is discharged directly into the sea without treatment, negatively impacting the environment and marine life.
Despite these numerous challenges, the WASH sector, working in collaboration with local and international partners, have ensured emergency rehabilitation of WASH facilities in schools, health centres, collective shelters hosting IDPs as well as detention centres for migrants. With targeted messaging, information on infection prevention as well as hygiene materials have reached vulnerable communities. The sector is also supporting national authorities for the procurement of urgently needed water pumps and WASH materials. However, additional funding support is urgently needed and advocacy at a higher level to ensure that basic rehabilitation programmes can continue without the risk of indiscriminate attacks on the water infrastructure.