Militants standing on vehicles with defaced photos of Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) | Photo: EPA/Stringer
Militants standing on vehicles with defaced photos of Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) | Photo: EPA/Stringer

The UN refugee agency is warning that the humanitarian crisis in Libya is becoming even worse. Fighting has increased and Libya's healthcare system is ill-prepared to handle a coronavirus outbreak. At least one person in Libya has died of Covid-19 so far.

A year after the launch of a military offensive in Tripoli, Libya, the humanitarian situation in Libya is worsening even further, the UN refugee agency UNHCR warned in a statement released on Friday. Not only has fighting increased recently, but   Covid-19 is bringing new threats to the war-torn country, the organization said.

More than 300 civilians have been killed and 150,000 have been displaced from their homes since last April, according to UNHCR. And authorities have now confirmed at least ten cases of Covid-19 and one death in Libya.

Covid-19 could lead to humanitarian catastrophe

The ongoing conflict combined with the spread of the novel coronavirus could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe, said UNHCR head of Libya mission Jean-Paul Cavalieri.

He said that the daily life of civilians in Libya was getting ever more difficult. Many, including displaced Libyans, refugees, and asylum seekers, do not have suitable housing and living in overcrowded spaces with limited access to toilets and washing facilities, Cavalieri noted. Prices for rent, food and fuel in Libya have surged.

The ongoing conflict has severely impacted Libya's health system and medical services, which have limited financial resources and face shortages of basic equipment and medicines, UNHCR said. Many hospitals and health facilities, located in areas close to the conflict, have been damaged or closed.

Appeal to release migrants from detention centers

Together with other humanitarian agencies, UNHCR is calling on the Libyan authorities to ensure that all population groups (including refugees and migrants) in Libya have access to health surveillance, preparedness, response plans and activities.

The agency is also calling for the release of people from detention centers. ''Asylum seekers and refugees, held in detention because they do not have legal documentation, are particularly vulnerable and exposed, given often poor sanitation facilities, limited health services and overcrowded conditions. Many detention centers are also located in areas close to fighting frontlines,'' they said.
 

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