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More than 200,000 Libyans displaced amid fighting as COVID-19 threat increases

Tripoli – More than 200,000 people have been displaced in the year since the conflict reignited in Libya according to new data compiled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Tripoli accounts for approximately 150,000 of recorded new displacements, but people were also forced to leave their homes in other conflict-affected areas in the country, including Murzuq, Sirt and Abu Gurayn.

Hostilities continue unabated in the capital Tripoli this week, damaging civilian infrastructure, including one of the few functioning health facilities in the city, Al Khadra hospital, where COVID-19 patients are being treated. A health worker was also injured in Mondays attack.

“A year into the conflict, the humanitarian situation in Libya has never been worse,” said IOM Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda. “The needs have never been greater and the conditions have never been more challenging. Despite calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, the fighting continues amid serious fears of a COVID-19 outbreak.”

Since April 2019, the conflict has caused widespread damage to health facilities and other infrastructure in the capital, leaving tens of thousands of internally displaced Libyan families and migrants, some of whom are detained, in very difficult living conditions. Most of these vulnerable people are living in overcrowded accommodation with limited access to health services, at constant risk of shelling.

The security situation is increasing humanitarian needs and making it more difficult for aid workers to reach vulnerable populations. Security challenges are now coupled with grave health concerns posed by the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus, especially in detention centres. Libya recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 24. Twenty people have so far tested positive.

While at least 1,500 people are in detention in Libya, thousands of others remain in the hands of smugglers and traffickers in even worse conditions where humanitarian aid cannot be provided.

IOM reiterates that civilian lives must be protected and safe passage provided to those fleeing conflict, and to allow humanitarian workers access, especially amid the fast-spreading global pandemic.

All vulnerable populations must be included in the health response and measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19, including prevention, testing and treatment.

IOM has been conducting regular disinfection and fumigation campaigns in detention centres and disembarkation points and providing hygiene items to detained migrants. These efforts are coupled with awareness raising and health education sessions conducted for migrants and displaced people. Through its mobile clinic, IOM medical teams continue to provide emergency and primary health assistance, including screenings for COVID-19 symptoms.

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