Libya Tribune

By UN Humanitarian

Since 2011, Libya has experienced several waves of armed conflict, which have led to massive displacements of people.

Over those seven years, like many other Libyans, the security of a home has eluded Hawa Ramadan and her family. Like many other Libyans, she has known several makeshift homes in many cities.

Hawa is a 42-year-old Libyan born with a disability. Her sisters have stuck with her, carrying her out to safety each time conflict forced them to flee. Her family now lives in the Al Sayyad camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

As of August 2018, about 194,000 people were internally displaced across Libya and it is estimated that 97,000 IDPs will need humanitarian assistance in 2019.

Caught by surprise

In 2011, when the uprising and subsequent conflict reached Hawa’s hometown, Tawergha, she and her family were caught by surprise.

Militias burned down everything around: houses, fields … I was terrified, as I was seeing everybody run but I could not,” recalls Hawa.

Her sisters carried her out to a car and they fled out of the city. In the past seven years, Hawa had never visited a doctor. She received a wheelchair when she arrived at the camp.

But she barely goes out of the camp. “I don’t feel like [doing] anything in life anymore. I don’t feel like eating. It is not a life we are leading here,” she says. “Living conditions here are difficult. Our bathroom and kitchen are communal facilities. I wish we could go home but all is burned down; there is nothing left.”

During her recent joint OCHA-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) mission to Libya, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, visited another camp for IDPs, Al Fallah, in Tripoli and met with several members of the 200 families living there. 

Khadija, a resident, does not remember her age but can recall with clarity the day she had to flee her home in Tawergha.

They [militias] came and hit us. They shot at us. We started running away, without having the time to take anything with us. And the children were stumbling in the flight,” says Khadija. “My husband could not run, and they killed him on the spot. I was alone and with nothing, not even spare clothes to get changed.”

“They [militias] came and hit us. They shot at us. We started running away, without having the time to take anything with us. And the children were stumbling in the flight,” says Khadija.

My husband could not run, and they killed him on the spot. I was alone and with nothing, not even spare clothes to get changed.”

I wish we could go back to our town and live again. Here, thank God, we are safe and surviving, but it is not a life. When it rains, water pierces through the ceiling into the room we use as a bedroom and living room at the same time. It gets flooded everywhere,” adds Khadija.

During the 2011 uprising and subsequent insecurity and conflict, the entire population of the city of Tawergha, approximately 43,000 people, were forced to flee their homes.

Most of the people ended up in camps around Tripoli and Benghazi. The IDPs are eager to return home.

The United Nations is in discussions with the Government to ensure a safe and voluntary return in dignity for the IDPs to their homes with access to essential services, while providing them immediate assistance in their current area of residence.

Crippled medical services

The years of conflict have had a crippling effect on public services in Libya. The Al Jalaa public hospital in Tripoli now serves a third of the country, as many health facilities have been damaged or are non- functioning.

The situation we have now is a real crisis. We are getting more and more critical cases and lack basic medical supplies,”

Abdurrhman Alsharef, Medical Coordinator, told the visiting UN officials. “We lack everything and have to ask patients to bring the gloves for surgeries, antibiotics, medication, gauze, etc.

This situation is extremely frustrating: sometimes patients are bleeding in front of us and we feel powerless as we are forced to leave them to bleed as we do not even have the thread to suture their wounds.”

Under attack

About 14,000 patients are being treated in this public hospital, where babies sometimes have to take turns in the incubators. Women come from as far as 400 kilometres to deliver in the hospital.

In the adjacent paediatrics section, the ceiling recently fell on patients during consultation hours. As of at the end of 2018, it is estimated that 554,000 people in Libya require urgent humanitarian health assistance.

Adding to the ongoing under-resourced and overstretched health system, Al Jalaa hospital also faces regular armed attacks, the most recent on 5 November 2018, when one doctor was shot down.

Building partnerships

Ms. Mueller was accompanied by Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP Crisis Bureau, Asako Okai; Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States, Mourad Wahba; and the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya, Maria do Valle Ribeiro.

The senior UN officials met with Prime Minister Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj and other high-level Government officials in Tripoli.

The joint trip was an opportunity to reinforce a coordinated response between the Government and international humanitarian and development organizations, working in partnership, along with peace-building efforts. 

The Government faces tremendous challenges and its capacity to respond alone is limited and constrained partly by the economic crisis. While Libyans make up half of the population in need, asylum seekers, migrants and refugees make up the other half of highly vulnerable people in the country.

The UN delegation underlined the need for the international community to commit and mobilize support for humanitarian and development issues in Libya, and to remain a consistent and reliable partner.

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