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Libya: Hostilities threaten COVID-19 response

13 Apr 2020


Health facilities in Libya have been under attack. Credit:OCHA/Eve Sabbagh

Hostilities in western Libya have continued to cause civilian casualties and triggered new displacement at a time when the country is responding to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 12 April, heavy shelling struck an ambulance near Misrata killing a paramedic - the eighth attack on health facilities this year. Shelling was also reported in parts of Tripoli, including Salah Al Din, Ain Zara, Saba’a and also hit residential areas in Tajoura.

About 3,700 people have fled their homes in Abusliem District in Tripoli in the past few weeks. Most are sheltering with relatives and in rented accommodation.

More than 2 million people, including 600,000 children, who live in Tripoli and surrounding towns and cities, have suffered from water cuts for at least a week. The water supply from the Great Man-Made River, was disrupted by a group in the Shwerif area to secure the release of family members. The water cuts have coincided with a serious power outage in the western region, also imposed due to another individual dispute.

In a statement issued on 10 April, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Yacoub El Hillo, stressed that water should never be used as a pressure card nor as a weapon of war especially now when Libya is fighting the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “Access to water and electricity is more than ever lifesaving, and such individual acts to collectively punish millions of innocent people are abhorrent and must stop immediately,” he said.

Libya has reported 25 confirmed COVID-19 cases and one death. Most cases are concentrated in Misrata and Tripoli in the west, but last week also saw the first cases in eastern Libya.

The UN and humanitarian partners are providing technical support to enhance national surveillance and early warning; upgrading laboratory capacity; operating helplines; and supporting the establishment of isolation wards in selected hospitals.

In March, the UN and humanitarian partners provided nearly 19,000 medical procedures and supported 53 public health facilities with services and commodities.

To respond to the unfolding COVID-19 situation, the UN and health sector partners urgently need US$15.3 million.

In addition, the 2020 Libya Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) requires $115 million to assist 345,000 of the most vulnerable people. The HRP is only 5 per cent funded.