Save the Children Egypt-Libya-Tunisia Assessment Report
Save the Children’s Egypt-Libya-Tunisia Assessment (SCELTA)
Crossing an ocean of sand
In May 2015, Save the Children International (SCI) conducted a rapid humanitarian needs assessment of children and youth in Libya as well as neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.
As Libya becomes increasingly engulfed in civil war, it has become a major shunting yard for migration from sub-Saharan Africa and refugee flows from the Middle East, aiming to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. Over the past 18 months, Italian ships have rescued more than 200,000 people at Sea. Italy's government predicts a total of 200,000 will arrive on its shores this year, up from 170,000 in 2014.
The south of Libya is a historical gateway for migration from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe. While the attention of the general public is focusing on dangerous transits to Europe by boat, the SCI report emphasises that another major problem is the thousands of refugees from Senegal, Niger, Mali, and Ghana that are crossing the “ocean of sand”, mostly on foot. Thousands are reportedly dying on this journey to Libya, including many women and children.
At the same time, Libya’s political crisis continues to deepen, despite repeated international calls for a ceasefire. It is estimated that 2 million people, almost one-third of the total population, have been affected by the conflict. At least 550,000 people are internally displaced. The number of forced migrants from Libya is unknown. It is estimated that between one and two million Libyans have found refuge mainly in Tunisia and Egypt, but also in Algeria, Chad, Turkey, Jordan and other countries. The SCI assessment identifies significant gaps in humanitarian assistance that the limited number of INGOs, UN agencies, the Red Crescent, and civil society organisations in Libya cannot meet with their present capacity. In particular, the SCI assessment emphasises major gaps in the provision of protection, health, and education support.
Key protection issues in Libya include exposure to armed conflict and indiscriminate violence, recruitment of minors, and gender-based violence. Over the past six months, the city of Benghazi in the northeast has been subject to indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, hospitals, schools, and market places and a number of deadly suicide attacks. SCI reports that between one and three children are injured or killed per week in Benghazi. The Libyan Red Crescent reports up to 300 incidents with explosive remnants of war in Benghazi over the past 3 months. Usually the victims are between 6 and 16 years old. Child recruitment is another common occurrence across the country. Males from 15 years of age onwards regularly join local armed groups.
SCI warns that if medicines are not restocked within the next four weeks, a health crisis in northeastern and southern Libya can be expected. The lack of vaccinations of children between 0 and 6 years of age in the northeast and south is a major concern.
The education system in Libya is severely affected by the conflict, the lack of law and order, and limited access to basic services. Once a country with the highest literacy rates in the region, half of the children are now out of school, especially in areas directly affected by armed conflict. In Benghazi, 75% of boys and girls have no access to education. Many schools in the northeast and south are occupied by IDPs. Civil Society actors have access but not the technical or financial capacities to support the overwhelming needs.