Ever since the people of Libya toppled the long reigning dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 during the Arab spring, the country is going through internal turmoil and civil wars. The ongoing power struggle between two major factions: the UN-backed General National Accord (GNA) government and the Libyan National Army (LNA) and its associated House of Representatives is the face of the current phase of Libyan civil war.
Libya has become a pawn in a great power game in which many Middle-Eastern and Western countries have put their resources behind different factions of civil war. These countries have poured in military hardware, mercenaries and diplomatic support to “internationalize” the tribal and political conflict of Libya.
France and Italy have seen an opening to assert their colonial-era influence which was on the wane after Colonel Gaddafi took the reign of the country. UAE, Turkey, and Russia on the other hand are trying to fish in the trouble waters of Libya by actively aiding in the armed conflict. The European Union has allied with Libyan coast guard to intercept migrants trying to sail for Europe and also funding prison camps for refugees to prevent them from reaching Europe through Libya.
The UNHCR reported that it registered almost 50,000 migrants in Libya in 2019. The World Food Programme estimates that over four hundred thousand people got displaced and also lost their sources of income due the ongoing conflict. The proportion of people with access to electricity has been steadily declining, and as little as 26.11% has access to basic and safe sanitation services. There are almost 3 million vulnerable people, which includes 55% women and children need “some form of humanitarian assistance.”
In January 2020 the United Nations released a statement particularly concerning the “dire situation” in Libya for tens of thousands of children. This includes those internally displaced after fleeing their homes, hundreds of thousands of children facing school shutdowns, and refugee and migrant children especially those being held in detention centres. The statement also points out that attacks on essential health facilities as well as water and waste management systems have “limited access to protection and essential services.”
The lifeline of Libyan economy is its oil industry which has taken a major hit during the civil war. It is estimated that Libya has lost more than $502 million in just 10-day period in January 2020 when major oil fields and production facilities were shut down due to the ongoing conflict. Most of the other business sectors are barely functioning in Libya.
The healthcare infrastructure of Libya was nearly destroyed during the last ten years and is staring at near-certain doom due to the prevalence of COVID-19 pandemic. The risk of community outbreaks and the inability of the healthcare system to handle this inevitability is a major risk for the country. Refugee camps and detention centers are more prone to the spread of pandemic as it is nearly impossible to maintain basic hygiene and social distancing over there.
While the warring sides in the civil wars have announced curfews and closures of restaurants, no official ceasefire has been announced, despite requests of the UN for the same. In fact, fighting has been documented to have continued well into March 2020 and April 2020 in which densely populated civilian areas, as well as health facilities have been targeted.
For the people of Libya, this has meant going from living under the stable but dictatorial rule of Colonel Gaddafi which provided a fairly decent civic infrastructure to being caught in brutal crossfire between a recognised government and a renegade military commander, which has destroyed the social and civic infrastructure of the country and impoverished the citizens.