CHANGE IN CONTEXT
The situation in Libya remained volatile throughout the first half of 2020, with armed conflict of varying intensity that continued to put the lives of civilians at risk. The situation for many people has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated prevention measures that have restricted people’s movements and access to livelihoods and basic goods and services. The situation in the first half of 2020 exacerbating humanitarian needs, including displacement, eroded people’s coping capacities and impeded access for humanitarian responders and assistance.
The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Libya increased from 356,700 people at the end of 2019 to 402,000 by the end of April, half of whom are women and girls and 24 per cent of whom are children. In early June, which falls outside the reporting period, military movements around Tarhuna and Sirte resulted in the displacement of an additional 27,000 people, with the majority moving to the East, bringing the total number of people displaced to 430,000 people. New displacements were primarily due to escalations in armed conflict in western Libya, particularly during March and April with significant displacement from Abu Qurayn, Sirte, Hai Alandalus, Tajoura, and Garabolli.
Despite the international community’s calls for a global ceasefire in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, clashes and indiscriminate shelling continued in Libya, as well as frequent attacks on essential services, including health, water and education facilities. Those who were already in vulnerable circumstances were further impacted by the ongoing hostilities. From January to June 2020, there was a total of 417 civilian casualties (147 deaths and 270 injuries). On 16 May, the al-Furnaj IDP and migrant shelter in Tripoli was shelled, killing seven people and injuring at least 17 others. The second quarter of 2020 was more deadly, with a 118 per cent increase compared to the first quarter.
Between January and May, there were 20 reported attacks on health infrastructure, killing six people and injuring 21 others. The attacks damaged 13 health centres, many of which temporarily suspended operations and transported patients to other facilities. This makes Libya the country with the highest number of reported attacks on health infrastructure globally, followed by Afghanistan and Syria.
While closed due to COVID-19 preventative measures, a total of 16 schools were attacked during the reporting period. Prior to the implementation of COVID-19 measures, many schools in and around Tripoli were temporarily closed due to the proximity of clashes or shelling, while 16 schools in the frontline areas of Ain Zara and Suq Aljumaa were closed for extended periods. From April 2020, all schools were closed due to COVID-19 measures. There has been an increase in attacks on water infrastructure, which on several occasions led to a lack of water for around 2 million people in the Tripoli and central areas, particularly in April and May. Electricity cuts are frequent and can continue for days or weeks, also affecting water supplies.
With the recent shift in conflict dynamics, some of which occurred in June outside the reporting period, displaced people have started returning to areas of southern Tripoli. However, due to the prevalence of explosive hazards, there is a significant risk to returning residents.
According to the Libyan Mine Action Centre, there have been 130 casualties (47 killed, 83 injured), with 75 civilians, including children, among the casualties.
Uncontrolled stocks of weaponry increase the likelihood of explosive remnants contamination when abandoned or poorly stored that pose a direct threat to civilians until cleared.
The situation for more than 626,000 migrants and refugees in Libya did not improve, with many continuing to face arbitrary detention, genderbased violence, forced labour, extortion and exploitation. On 27 May 2020, 30 migrants were killed, and 11 others injured at a smuggling centre in Mezda, southwest of Tripoli, reportedly as retribution for the killing of a people smuggler by migrants. Human trafficking and smuggling constitute a grave violation of international human rights law. In addition, restriction measures imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 has particularly affected migrants and refugees, many of who face increased discrimination, inability to access services due to fear of arrest or detention and have lost livelihood opportunities given their reliance on the informal sector and daily wage labour.
The number of people being held in state-run detention centers has nearly doubled since earlier in the year, and as of 19 June 2020, stands at 2,100 people. Migrants and refugees have continued to take risks in attempts to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. As of 26 June, more than 5,000 refugees and migrants have been intercepted/rescued at sea and returned to Libya this year, compared to 3,450 people over the same period in 2019. Libya remains an unsafe port of return and the humanitarian community continues to advocate with the authorities for alternatives to detention.
In addition to ongoing insecurity and conflict, Libya has been impacted by the COVID-19. In May and June, the number of cases significantly increased. As of 30 June 2020, there were 802 confirmed cases, including 23 deaths.
The majority of confirmed cases were in the south of the country, which accounts for over half of all confirmed cases and reported deaths, despite accounting for only 8 per cent of Libya’s population. There were also a significant number of cases in Tripoli and Misrata, with cases increasing in eastern and central Libya.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.