Libya Revised humanitarian response Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) May–December 2020

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Impact of COVID-19 on food security and agriculture

• The ongoing civil war has led to a dire humanitarian situation and the destruction of the country’s healthcare capacity and other basic infrastructure. Agricultural production is also limited due to the country’s unconducive climate, and disruptions in oil production and exports have led to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth slowing down sharply to 2.5 percent in 2019. Most land, air and sea crossing points were either limited or closed entirely prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the country continues to rely heavily on imports to meet domestic food demand (90 percent of cereals are imported).

• The effects of COVID-19-related restrictions have further exacerbated the situation and increased the vulnerability of numerous households. As of 9 July 2020, Libya has 1 268 confirmed cases of COVID-19. After the first cases were detected in March 2020, the Government of Libya took steps to control its spread including further border closures, import restrictions and restrictions on the movement of food supplies, as well as the closure of schools, markets and some businesses.

• Many areas in the country are reporting availability problems for basic food items. The cost of essential food and goods in May 2020 was 23 percent above pre-COVID levels. In addition, access to food-related commodities such as cooking gas is currently limited and costly. This is due to high inflation, exchange rate fluctuations and liquidity problems. The Import of goods into Libya has also been affected as a result of restrictions imposed by exporting countries, causing a reduction in food supply in Libya. These issues, coupled with an increase in unemployment, are reducing the capacity of households to meet their basic food needs.

• Migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees are among the most-affected population groups, mainly because their employment sources and opportunities have been severely reduced due to the COVID-19 containment measures. Rural Libyan farmers in the southern region of the country as well as in Benghazi have also been heavily affected. Numerous Libyans who were considered food secure before the pandemic are now facing food shortages.

• A survey conducted in May 2020 by the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that 85 percent of those interviewed had no savings with which to cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 52 percent said that their livelihoods had suffered because of COVID-19.

• A large proportion of households have already adopted negative coping mechanisms to address the lack of resources during the pandemic, such as relying on less expensive food, reducing the number or size of meals per day, withdrawing children from schools, or selling assets in order to buy food. A major concern during COVID-19 is that numerous displaced households have reduced their required health expenditures in order to cover their basic food needs.