The UNHCR announced a joint initiative with the World Food Programme (WFP) to save up to 10,000 refugees and migrants stuck in Libya from malnourishment and starvation. The program comes amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
The UN refugee agency said that the first distribution of food began in the Sarraj neighborhood of Tripoli on June 15.
"The partnership was launched in recognition of the severe socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Libya as well as the effects of the ongoing conflict," UNHCR and WFP said in a statement. "Many refugees say that they are only able to afford to eat one meal a day."
The UN agencies said that most migrants in Libya "have been unable to find any daily work to support themselves as curfews have been introduced and food prices and the cost of basic goods have dramatically risen."
Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants are trapped in Libya in conditions that human rights groups have referred to as horrifying. Reports of sexual abuse, forced labor, torture, slavery and murder have surfaced in recent years from the north African nation, which has also been suffering under a civil war.
Almost a decade of strife in Libya
The UNHCR and WFP said that migrants released from migrant detention centers in Libya would be among those receiving aid, as well as others struggling to get by in major urban centers.
The situation of refugees and migrants stuck in Libya has worsened in the past year since military strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an assault on Tripoli in 2019 in a bid to throw over the official government, which is recognized by the UN.
The conditions in the country are now further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic which according to official figures has resulted in only few deaths thus far but could pose a major risk to the lives of migrants in the country, who often live in crowded and unsanitary conditions.
Since the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Ghaddafi in 2011, the country has plunged into nearly a decade of chaos, resulting in a major rise in human trafficking in Libya. The war-torn nation has become the main transit country for many migrants en route to Europe.