UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the World Food Programme (WFP), are joining forces in Libya for a scheme that will aim to reach up to 10,000 food-insecure refugees and asylum seekers with emergency food aid this year.
The partnership was started in recognition of the severe socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in Libya as well as the impacts of the ongoing conflict. Nutritious food supports a healthy immune system, which is even riskier in challenging times of a global pandemic. Regular food support helps to meet this basic need and supports limited income to be used for other needs.
Most refugees and asylum seekers in Libya have been incapable to find any daily activity to support themselves as curfews have been introduced and food prices and the cost of basic goods have dramatically risen. The cost of a minimum expenditure food basket that would satisfy basic needs has increased by 24 percent since March. Many refugees say that they are only able to manage to eat one meal a day.
A quick needs evaluation carried by WFP between 30 May and 3 June 2020, carried out via telephone interviews with 10% of refugees proposed for support, found that on average, one out of two respondents had poor or borderline poor food eating. A majority showed a significantly higher frequency of adopting negative coping strategies such as reducing the number of meals per day or limiting the size of meal portions. In the past 30 days, 77 percent of respondents could not reach supermarkets, and 70 percent had no money to buy food.
“Every day, I am afraid of death because of hunger,” a respondent stated WFP. “I sleep on mats. There are many shops that I want to work in but there is no work. There is nothing in my house other than bread and tea.”
Among those who will be assisted under the plan are refugees and asylum seekers freshly freed from detention centers, with insufficient means of supporting themselves. Others will involve refugees in urban settings facing severe challenges in accessing food.
“The help we’re providing under this project has come at a critical time and will be a lifesaver for some of the most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in urban areas,” stated Jean-Paul Cavalieri, UNHCR’s Chief of Mission in Libya.
The first delivery of food support began on 15 June at UNHCR’s registration center in Serraj, Tripoli. Some 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers will be transferred to the pilot phase.