In February, a new interim government, the Government of National Unity (GNU), was elected with the hope to unify institutions that were long divided, achieve national reconciliation and prepare for elections at the end of 2021.
The aftermath of the conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect the provision of basic services. In the first quarter of 2021, UNICEF, together with the partners, provided access to primary healthcare for 215,185 children and women. 5,258 people had improved access to safe drinking water, and 4,112 children had access to improved learning facilities.
UNICEF Libya’s Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) Appeal for 2021 called for US$ 49.1 million to reach 468,000 children across Libya. The UNICEF humanitarian response remains underfunded, with a funding gap of approximately US$ 36.3 million (almost 74 per cent).
Funding Overview and Partnerships
UNICEF’s humanitarian programmes in Libya aim to assist the most vulnerable children and families in collaboration with government ministries, 11 national and international non-governmental organizations and the UN agencies. In 2021, UNICEF is appealing for US$ 49.1 million to provide emergency and life-saving services to the 468,000 children vulnerable children, including conflict-affected children and their families, migrants, and refugees. As of March 2021, the appeal had a critical funding gap of almost 74 per cent or US$ 36.3 million, across all sectors. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and social protection are the most underfunded sectors, with funding gaps of over 90 per cent, while education and child protection are currently underfunded by around 70 per cent each.
In 2021, the Education Cannot Wait Fund, the Governments of Italy, Japan, Poland, Sweden, and the United States of America have generously contributed to UNICEF’s humanitarian preparedness and response for Libya with funds carried over from Education Cannot Wait Fund, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland and United States of America from 2020. UNICEF expresses its sincere gratitude to all donors for the valuable contributions received.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
As a continuing result of the peace talks and efforts in Libya, supported by the United Nations Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), elections took place in January 2021 to select a new interim unified executive authority to lead the country to the elections for the permanent authority in December 2021. In February, a new interim government, the Government of National Unity (GNU), was elected to represent all regions of Libya, in the hope to unify institutions that were long divided in the past and achieve national reconciliation, approved by parliament in March 2021. However, while subsequent negotiations and agreements seem to point towards stability after a decade of military conflict and political strife, the situation remains unpredictable, with risks linked to the complex roots of competing national and international interests affecting the country’s underlying political and economic context. This fragile context, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and socioeconomic issues, impacted the physical and mental well-being and living standards of people in Libya, especially for children. For 2021, it is estimated that 271,000 children will need protection services including mental health and psychosocial support.
The post-impact of the armed conflict and the deteriorated basic services left water and sanitation in a dire situation, that may lead up to the shortage of water for four million people if solutions are not made. Previous attacks on the Man-Made River rendered 190 wells out of service, and the deterioration faced by the desalination plants and general authority for water resources are adding additional pressure on the sector. For 2021, it is estimated that 175,200 children need WASH assistance. Health services have also been steadily deteriorating due to damage from the conflict, and lack of supplies, equipment and staff. Especially in the south, additional issues are due to a lack of specialized healthcare workers. Since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed on 24 March 2020, the number has increased to over 133,000 cases by 31 March 2021. In 2021, 480,000 children will require health service support.
Schools officially reopened between January and February 2021, after their closure since mid-2020. However, with the unpredictability of the situation, the need for distance learning education has increased and new online modalities need to be adapted. For 2021, it is estimated that around 316,000 school children require education support.
In their attempt to reach Europe, migrants and refugees choose Libya as the main access port, while many others choose to remain in Libya as the destination country. During the first quarter of 2021, the Libyan Coast Guard returned 5,904 migrants (273 children, 413 women) to Libya, where most of the migrants, including children, were placed in arbitrary detention. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the increase in departing migrants may be due to warmer weather, increased smuggler activity, and difficult living conditions. As of February 2021, an estimated 575,874 migrants are residing in Libya, of which nine percent are children (an estimated 51,829 children) and an estimated 11,517 children are unaccompanied or separated (UASC) .