Millions in Libya in urgent need of aid and protection, warns UN

Libya Channel 

Nearly half the population of Libya is in need of protection and humanitarian aid, the UN has said, warning that millions lacked access to food, healthcare, water and sanitation amid a year-long civil war.

Some 2.4 million people – out of the 6-million-strong population – are in need of assistance as the fighting has shattered the country,  the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report published Thursday. Of that number an estimated 1.9 million people require help to meet their basic health care needs. Hundreds of thousands of children are also affected.

Kidnappings, assassinations, sexual violence and trafficking were also on the rise, the UN agency added.

“The conflict has restricted access to basic goods and services, including food, healthcare, water and sanitation and education. The health care system has deteriorated to the point of collapse, leading to an increase in serious illness and disease,” the report read. Some 60 percent of the country’s hospitals – lacking equipment, supplies and personnel – have had to periodically close in the last six months.

While  over 1.28 million people are food-insecure, with the most severe cases reported in the eastern city of Benghazi and in the south.

The latest conflict erupted when armed coalition Libya Dawn swept control of Tripoli last year, setting up a rival administration and forcing the internationally-recognized parliament to operate over 1500km to the east.

Forces loyal to both sides have been battling for control of strategic territory across the country. Fighting has erupted in major cities including Tripoli, Misrata, Sirte, Benghazi and Derna along the coast and in the central oasis city of Sabha.

In the complete security vacuum an insurgency has flourished and violence has soared, the UN found.

“With a lack of governance and rule of law, the protection environment has deteriorated sharply, with an increase in the incidences of abductions, targeted killings, robberies, trafficking, and endemic violence,” it wrote.

“There are widespread cases of reported sexual violence with girls, women..  refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants the most affected,” it added.

The violence has forced some 435,000 to flee their homes in search of safety and security. Many are now living in outdoor camps, schools and empty warehouses.

Across the conflict there have been widespread violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by all sides, including against women and children, the UN agency said.

Vulnerable groups like the estimated 250,000 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in the country were among the hardest hit.

Libya has for years been a hub for people trafficking to Europe as heavily armed smugglers have exploited the breakdown in the state to operate their lucrative trade.  Migrants and refugees have reported being subject to torture, illegal detention and extortion.

The armed conflict has also severely affected over 900,000 children.  There has been a decrease in school enrollment rates – by 17 percent for girls and 21 percent for boys, said OCHA. The lowest drop was in Benghazi – where the army has launched a fresh offensive against armed groups last month.

Children are also suffering psychologically -approximately 270,000 children are in need of psycho-social support in Tripoli and Benghazi alone.

The report predicted the situation to worsen as international aid agencies and foreign workers have had to evacuate the country. Local aid workers are, meanwhile, unable to access many of the vulnerable communities and do not have the menas to deal with the crisis, the UN report found.

The UN is hosting a final round of peace talks between representatives of both sides in Skhirat, Morocco this week. They hope a peace deal will be signed in the next few days to lay the groundwork for a national unity government which will halt the complete collapse of the country.

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