A Displaced Libyan Family Finds a Temporary Haven

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A two-income, urban, coastal family find themselves living in a secondary school classroom near the vast Sahara desert. Hannah and her family of eight now live in a school in the southern Libyan town of Shatti, 60 kilometers north of the regional capital Sabha.

Just three months ago, 35-year old Hannah was a multi-tasking mother of four, pregnant and working as an accountant. Her husband was an employee at the government pension fund and they owned two houses in a functional dormitory town. All that came to an abrupt halt due to the conflict in Libya that began earlier this year.

Hannah now relies on the little money they have left and the food assistance WFP provides to vulnerable families like hers in Shatti. She is among more than 1,000 people who fled from several parts of Libya to this remote town.

Standing in a spotlessly clean school that has been home to Libya’s internally displaced, Hannah bounces her bright-eyed baby Samood in her arms. Samood, she says, was born in a hospital 120 kilometres away from their hometown that was being extensively shelled at the time of her birth.

With Samood’s birth, the family’s car journey across Libya in search of a safe haven began. They stopped in a series of Libyan towns – first Hisha, then Jufra, Mishda and now Shatti.

Generosity Found

The people of this small town have been generous in providing shelter and food to these homeless families. “We are also humanitarians,” says Zidan, an engineer and local volunteer. “We are brothers; we come from the same country.”

However, schools and clinics housing displaced families plan to re-open soon and the community needs to resume normal life.

Most families’ ability to return is restrained by lack of cash needed for fuel and food on the long trip. Without jobs, families need even more money to survive and repair their homes once there. Eight months of conflict has drained Libyans’ resources; banks have been devoid of cash and salaries not paid.

Hannah’s husband has only managed to withdraw money only once from a bank in Tripoli during the past eight months. That did not last long. And, for now, Hannah is pre-occupied with another request, which is asking visitors if they can email a photo of the family to her worried sister in France.