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Libya Humanitarian Needs Overview 2020 (January 2020)

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Summary of Humanitarian Needs

Executive summary

Libya is in its ninth year of instability and conflict following the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011. In 2019, escalations in conflict, in both the south and in the country’s capital, Tripoli, saw fighting move into more populated urban areas. The use of explosive weapons in this environment has put civilians at high risk of indiscriminate harm. Civilian casualties, displacement and damage to civilian infrastructure, including medical facilities, have increased. Protracted political and economic instability, which has severely impacted governance structures, has resulted in a significant deterioration in basic services provision. With each passing year, people’s well-being and living standards have been eroded, with the most vulnerable increasingly relying on negative coping strategies.





Scope of analysis

Available information, including humanitarian assessments, point to a humanitarian context that is overall comparable to 2019, with a gradual deterioration in the humanitarian situation, coupled with spikes in conflict, insecurity and vulnerability. A surge in internal displacement – up by 80 per cent in 2019 – demonstrates the impact of such spikes. The number of people returning to their place of origin in 2019 has been moderated by the scale of displacement, resulting in roughly the same overall number of people displaced at the end of 2019, compared to 2018. The number of migrants and refugees has remained similar in 2019 and this group remains a priority category of vulnerable people in need.

The Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) analysis covers all provinces and districts of Libya. Analysis focused on five population groups comprising the in-need population—internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees, migrants, refugees and vulnerable conflict-affected Libyans not displaced. The impact of the crisis on these groups was analyzed under two overarching categories of humanitarian consequences; those associated with critical problems related to people’s physical and mental well-being, and those associated with deteriorating living standards.

Humanitarian consequences

The persistent political and security crisis, coupled with escalations in fighting, have impacted the physical and mental well-being and living standards of Libyans, as well as migrants and refugees, while also exposing them to significant protection risks. The absence of functioning governance structures has resulted in deterioration of public services, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and diminishing people’s coping capacities.

Ongoing conflict has increased the exposure of individuals to risks to life and safety due to violence, indiscriminate attacks and exposure to explosive remnants of war. Much of the conflict is characterized by its indiscriminate nature, with regular violations of international humanitarian and international human rights laws. Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, particularly health infrastructure which doubled in 2019, are increasing. This year, at least 647 civilians have been killed or injured, the majority in Tripoli.

Insecurity and conflict remain the central driver of displacement. The number of IDPs has nearly doubled in 2019, with new displacement mostly from Tripoli and Murzuq. Of the more than 343,000 IDPs, many struggles to pay rent and/or live in substandard shelters. Those living in informal settlements are particularly vulnerable and are at high risk of eviction.

The use of negative coping mechanisms and the risk of exploitation remains high particularly among vulnerable populations who are unable to meet their basic needs. Children are exposed to high levels of psychosocial distress and trauma, with six per cent of households with children reportedly observing negative behaviours and emotional changes in their children, particularly among IDP children. Refugee and migrant children face discrimination and bullying, including in schools. Psychosocial and gender-based violence (GBV) support services are extremely limited. The existence of discriminative laws allowing victims to be prosecuted, widespread stigma and mandatory reporting further undermines and creates additional barriers GBV victim’s access to justice and support. Arbitrary detention further exposes migrants and refugees to critical protection risks. Around 3,200 migrants and refugees remain in detention, living in overcrowded conditions with limited services.

The decreased cost of the food has improved food security indicators, but this has not been across the board, with food prices rising in many parts of the south during 2019. Despite improvements, 30 per cent of households still report food affordability challenges. As a result, around 64 per cent of Libyan households and 78 per cent of migrant and refugee households report employing negative coping strategies to afford food, including reducing the number and size of meals per day, withdrawing children from schools, or selling assets.¹

Around 24 per cent of Libyans and 80 per cent of migrants and refugees, reported facing challenges accessing health services. Many public health care facilities are closed and those that are open lack medicines, supplies and equipment. Many facilities have been directly attacked or damaged due to fighting and those that remain functional are overburdened or not maintained. Access to health, education and other public services are further restricted for people who have lost legal documents, or for those who do not have them, such as migrants and refugees. Education and water, sanitation and hygiene services have also been disrupted.

Severity of needs

Around 39 per cent of all people in need – 893,000 people – have acute humanitarian needs as a result of exposure to physical and mental harm, a partial or total collapse of living standards and basic services, and increased reliance on the use of negative coping strategies.

Overall, the most severe and compounded needs are found in mantikas that are experiencing direct conflict, such as Tripoli, or have received the highest numbers of IDPs, such as Azzawya, Benghazi, Ejdabia, Misrata and Sebha. The majority of IDPs in Libya have been displaced since 2014, demonstrating the protracted nature of this crisis. IDPs are more likely to face challenges in accessing basic services, like health and education, compared with other affected Libyans. Among returnees and non-displaced Libyans, 353,000 people face significant challenges meeting their basic needs, due to limited cash and/or access to services. Furthermore, many areas, in particular all major frontline areas in the greater Tripoli area, as well as some areas with the highest returns, like Benghazi and Sirt, remain contaminated by explosive remnants of war (ERW), posing grave risks to people’s wellbeing, living standard and livelihoods.

Protection risks are most significant for refugee and migrants, compared to other groups of concern. Risks include unlawful killings, torture, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), arbitrary detention, forced labour and extortion. Refugee and migrant children are far more likely to report no access to education, particularly in the south. Women and girls are more likely to have poorer nutrition, access to shelter and less opportunities for work than male refugees and migrants.

People in need

Out of the 1.8 million people who have been affected by the crisis, more than 893,000 people are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance – a nine per cent increase on 2018. This includes 212,000 women and 268,000 boys and girls under 18 years of age (176,000 boys and 91,000 girls). Around 30 per cent of people in need are children, 34 per cent of whom are girls. While the number of people in need is 66 per cent boys and men, this is largely due to the majority of the migrants (93 per cent) being male. Of those people in need, an estimated 134,000 are people living with a disability (66 per cent male and 34 per cent female).

Of the total number of people in need, nearly 50 per cent are concentrated in four mantikas—Tripoli, Ejdabia, Misrata and Benghazi. Migrants and refugees remain among the most vulnerable and at-risk groups in Libya and constitute the largest portion of people in need, at 36 per cent. Nearly two thirds of the total IDP population are in need and, unable to afford rent, live in sub-standard shelters, and cannot afford or access basic services. An estimated 74,000 people who have returned to their place of origin, are in need of humanitarian assistance, with the largest number in Ejdabia, Tripoli and Zwara. Many people who have not been displaced but live in areas of insecurity or with limited services remain in need. Around 278,000 non-displaced Libyans face unmet humanitarian needs, particularly in Ejdabia and Sebha.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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