Libyans are at risk because of conflict and the coronavirus pandemic, a group of UN agencies said Wednesday.
“Conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic present a significant threat to life in Libya. The health and safety of the country’s entire population are at risk,” said a joint statement by the humanitarian, human rights, children, population, food, health and migration agencies.
Defying repeated calls for a cease-fire, the “hostilities continue unabated, hindering access and the delivery of critical humanitarian supplies,” according to the statement.
More than 3,200 migrants and refugees have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, it said, warning that Libya is not a safe port and those rescued at sea should not be returned to arbitrary detention.
Hospitals and health facilities have been targeted by shelling, further disrupting Libya’s fragile health system.
“These attacks are a blatant violation of international humanitarian law and even more egregious during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the statement.
In addition, the coronavirus pandemic is posing another strain on the health system and vulnerable people are at risk.
As of May 13, there were 64 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including three deaths, in different parts of the country.
“This shows that local/community transmission is taking place. The risk of further escalation of the outbreak is very high,” according to the statement.
The agencies support UN chief Antonio Guterres’ call for a global cease-fire and a humanitarian pause to save lives and enable Libyan authorities and their partners to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“The international community must not turn a blind eye to the conflict in Libya and its catastrophic effect on civilians, including migrants and refugees, across the country,” said the statement.
Khalifa Haftar, the leader of illegal armed forces in eastern Libya, intensified attacks on civilians since the beginning of May as the army recently gained the advantage and inflicted severe losses on his militants.
The government has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence. It launched Operation Peace Storm on March 26 to counter attacks on the capital.
Following the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya’s government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led political deal.
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