COVID-19 Behavior Assessment in Libya: For the Design of the Risk Communication and Community Engagement Plan (RCCE)

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1. Executive Summary

Context overview

In Libya the COVID-19 pandemic has been adding uncertainty a in a situation already dire due to the political, security and economic instability. With cases reaching more than 70 thousand at the time of data collection in November 2020, the national health care system is facing substantial challenges. Imposed confinement measures coupled with the poor existing infrastructure of basic services impose a great threat for the virus to spread faster. Therefore, there is a need to understand the current situation and assess the behaviors, attitudes, and knowledge of the Libyan population as well as migrant/refugee communities within the country on the COVID-19 virus.

About the assessment

The COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response plan in Libya is being implemented through a nine pillars approach, in which Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) plays a vital role in creating awareness on prevention and mitigation of the impact of COVID-19. This behavior assessment will underpin a broad understanding of the realities linked to the COVID-19 crisis in Libya to support the evidence-based response of UNICEF and other key stakeholders. The assessment will assist in understanding popular misperceptions of COVID-19, the level of trust in the information on COVID-19, and the quality, use, and satisfaction of social and medical services.

Key findings

Awareness and perception

Awareness of the existence of COVID-19 and preventive measures is high across Libya, among both Libyans and non-Libyans. Non-Libyans, however, are generally less aware of transmission mechanisms. The most commonly known symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath and the groups perceived as most at risk are the elderly and individuals with health conditions. The preferred behavior in case of symptoms is isolation at home. Nonetheless, non-Libyans are more likely to leave the house to the nearest primary healthcare center. With regards to risk perception, non-Libyans are less likely to believe that the virus will spread in their community than Libyans but are more likely to believe that the consequences of contracting the virus will be severe or life-threatening.

Preventative measures

High awareness of preventative measures is coupled with high compliance with said measures. Non-Libyans are, however, generally less aware than Libyan nationals. Both groups most commonly wash their hands when cooking and eating, after using the toilet or handling garbage and when arriving home. However, lack of access to water is reported as an important barrier to doing so regularly. On one hand, the reason to comply with physical distancing is mainly the fear of contracting the virus. On the other hand, the main reason to leave the house is to go to work and buy groceries. Impact on livelihood and subsequent loss of livelihood represents an important barrier to self-isolation, despite the general awareness of the effectiveness of self-isolation. With regards to respiratory etiquettes, awareness is generally high, but groups differ in the practice. Libyans are generally more compliant with a preference for the immediate disposal of tissues and less frequent practice of coughing into a bent elbow. When reporting suspected cases, the preferred authority is the NCDC, followed by the MoH, while the most prominent barrier is not knowing what number to call.


The population highly relies on health facilities for immunization but cite fear of infection as well as expensive transport and absence of tests as reasons for not going. Eight percent of the non-Libyans report that they would face discrimination in such facilities.

The impact of the pandemic on dietary habits is higher among Libyans than non-Libyans as well as the introduction of immune-boosting food. With regards to the impact on domestic violence, Libyans report noticing an increase in cases, and they are also more aware of where to report cases of domestic abuse than non-Libyans. The majority of Libyans recognizes that the restrictions have had an impact on their mental health and disabled population.

From an economic point of view, livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic, mostly so for non-Libyans who rely on daily wages to a higher degree and do not benefit from social security as much as Libyan nationals.

Access to information

TV and Facebook are the preferred channels for information regarding news related to the COVID-19. As for confidence in reporting sources, non-Libyans generally show a higher trust than nationals and prefer the UN and INGOs. Libyans instead trust more technical sources such as pharmacists, health care staff, and the MoH or the NCDC.

International Organization for Migration
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