True stability in Libya will only come about by rebuilding people’s lives

World leaders must seize the opportunity at a conference on the future of Libya this week to make continued commitments to addressing the humanitarian needs of a population who have not known peace for more than a decade, the International Rescue Committee, Action Against Hunger, the Danish Refugee Council and the Norwegian Refugee Council said today.

The Berlin International Conference on Libya, to be hosted by the German government and the United Nations on June 23, is aimed at supporting the political process in Libya and promoting stabilization efforts more than seven months into a fragile ceasefire, and just six months before elections are planned to take place.

“The stability of Libya will not come about by just holding elections or withdrawing foreign fighters,” said Dax Roque, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Country Director in Libya. “True stability can only be achieved if the lives of ordinary Libyans and the country’s many migrants and refugees are rebuilt. High-level discussions will fall short if they don’t also address the devastation inflicted on peoples’ lives and the very infrastructure on which they depend day to day.”

One displaced Libyan currently in Benghazi said: “The first thing we need from the international community is peace, safety and security. But even if we were able to return home, our houses are destroyed and the little assistance we have received I have had to use to pay for food and rent. It won't be enough to rebuild my home.”

A decade of protracted crisis has left one in five people in Libya - comprising 1.3 million Libyans, migrants and refugees - in need of humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. The destruction of entire cities and towns has left 280,000 people living in damaged or substandard shelters that they cannot afford to rebuild themselves. A further 245,000 people still displaced by the conflict are unable to return to their homes, due to obstacles such as the presence of unexploded ordnance.

“The recurrent armed conflict has left a legacy of explosive remnants of war that will take years to clear to allow people to safely return to their homes and livelihoods. There have been at least 250 victims since May 2020 and many more likely undocumented. Ten years of instability has taken a substantial toll on the country’s population, yet international assistance to Libya is failing to keep pace with the humanitarian needs on the ground,” said Liam Kelly, the Danish Refugee Council’s Country Director in Libya.

Between January and May last year, Libya suffered the highest number of attacks on health care service providers in the world, further undermining the ability of its health system to provide for the population and putting health workers’ and patients' lives at further risk. 

The situation has been compounded by chronic underfunding that has left many basic services now teetering on the brink of collapse. To date, donors have only committed to fund about a fifth of Libya’s Humanitarian Response Plan for 2021.

“More than one million people in Libya are estimated to have acute health needs. With only half of its health facilities still functioning, the Libyan health system is over-stretched and struggles to respond to the population's basic health needs. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening health care services has to be more than an afterthought,” said Samy Guessabi, Country Representative in Libya for Action Against Hunger.

Some of the most vulnerable people in Libya include migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who face serious protection risks and human rights violations. Many have been subjected to systematic and arbitrary detention, exploitation, sexual violence, and a myriad of other abuses since leaving their countries of origin. Currently, more than five thousand migrants, refugees and asylum seekers languish in often abusive conditions in Libya’s detention centres. While this year is on course to see a record number of migrants and refugees intercepted at sea and forcibly returned to Libya, despite the UN declaring it cannot be considered a safe place for disembarkation.

The four aid groups warn that humanitarian needs in Libya will not simply disappear, even if momentum continues on the political front: “For the first time in many years, Libya has a real chance at achieving peace and stability,” said Tom Garofalo, the International Rescue Committee’s Country Director in Libya. “But the foundations for Libya’s recovery are extremely fragile. International leaders must maximise this critical moment in Berlin to address the immediate humanitarian and longer-term needs of everyone in Libya. A failure to do so will undermine the very stability this conference wants to usher in, leaving hundreds of thousands of people struggling to cope while they also face the potentially decades-long task of rebuilding their lives.”

The aid groups caution that ensuring the rights of displaced Libyans, as well as the country’s large migrant and refugee community - who are a critical part of the Libyan economy - must also take a more central role in Libya’s stabilization. Neglecting to address these issues will undoubtedly threaten the sustainability of any progress made in Berlin.

NOTE TO EDITORS

  • The 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya estimates that 1.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and about 1.2 million people lack consistent access to health services and that are in the most severe need of humanitarian assistance.
  • According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are 245,483 internally displaced Libyans, 623, 219 returnees, and 575,874 migrants in Libya.
  • According to IOM’s Missing Migrants tracker, 677 deaths have been recorded on the Central Mediterranean route in 2021.
  • According to the Financial Tracking Service, as of 16 June 2021, 21.5% of the $189,122,124 required by the Libya response plan had been funded.
  • Libya’s Shelter/NFI sector estimates that 280,000 people in Libya live in damaged or substandard shelters.
  • The Libyan Mine Action Center says explosive remnants have resulted in at least 101 deaths and 150 injuries between 5 May 2020 and 1 June 2021.
  • According to the World Health Organization, half of Libya’s health care facilities functioning in 2019 were forced to close in 2020.

 

Action Against Hunger is leading a global movement to end hunger in our lifetimes. It innovates solutions, advocates for change, and reaches 25 million people every year with proven hunger prevention and treatment programs. As a nonprofit that works across 50 countries, its 8,300 dedicated staff members partner with communities to address the root causes of hunger, including climate change, conflict, inequity, and emergencies. It strives to create a world free from hunger, for everyone, for good.