UNHCR is offering special assistance to migrants and asylum seekers in Tripoli during Ramadan | Source: Facebook UNHCRTripoli
UNHCR is offering special assistance to migrants and asylum seekers in Tripoli during Ramadan | Source: Facebook UNHCRTripoli

UNHCR has announced it will be distributing more emergency aid in Tripoli to help the most vulnerable during Ramadan, as war and the novel coronavirus pandemic increase difficulties for many.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR announced on May 3 that it would be beginning "a series of extra emergency distributions in Tripoli, to assist some of the most vulnerable people during Ramadan, as war and COVID-19 present new threats."

The first distribution took place on Sunday to 100 people in a deprived area of Tripoli where many live without sufficient water or sanitation. Some of those helped on May 3 told UNHCR staff they had recently been released from detention in Libya. Many of them had been working as day laborers but due to restrictions placed on them by the measures taken to combat the coronavirus, they had lost their only source of income.

Food for a month

Each package, stated the UNHCR press release, contains a food parcel designed to sustain someone for one month, water purification tablets, from fellow UN Agency UNICEF, and a hygiene kit.

The agency is aiming to reach 500 people by the end of the first week and to have provided aid to about 4,000 by the end of the Muslim holy month of fasting.

Jean-Paul Cavalieri, the UNHCR Chief of Mission in Libya said: "We recognize that daily life in Libya is terribly difficult, for Libyans as well as refugees and asylum seekers." Cavalieri said that war and COVID-19 had just made things “even more challenging."

'Ramadan is a time to show solidarity'

Cavalieri continued that "Ramadan is an important time to show solidarity when people are really struggling with their daily needs." He said that the lack of work meant that many who had been getting by were "unable to […] support themselves"

As well as food packages, UNHCR said that they were also providing extra help with the Libyan health care system, which had been severely impacted by the conflict. "Many hospitals or health facilities, located in areas close to the conflict, have also been damaged or closed."

The press release stated that the UNHCR and partners are providing "generators, ambulances, pre-fab containers and tented clinics in support of local health care services across the country." Core relief items, including soap, have been distributed in Misrata and Benghazi to try and help at least 20,000 displaced people. "Several detention centers where hygiene conditions are very poor," have also been targeted with relief.

As well as physical aid, UNHCR and its partners have stepped up their public information campaigns, aiming to inform migrants about how to protect themselves against being infected with the novel coronavirus.

Public health campaign

In a video, a UNHCR volunteer Suleiman, originally from Somalia, tells refugees to "stay at home, wash your hands, and please take care of yourselves." Suleiman is working with the UNHCR in Libya "to protect refugees from the coronavirus," explains the video. Suleiman and the other volunteers share tips via WhatsApp about how to help protect themselves and others.

Other agencies are also distributing food and aid in Tripoli and beyond. IOM Libya tweeted on April 30 that it was busy distributing aid to 150 migrants in Tripoli alongside the World Food Programme (WFP).


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