Today, the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis strikes the world at large, threatening not only global health, but economic and social dimensions of countries’ development in unprecedented ways. For conflict affected countries like Libya, the challenges can be devastating without the necessary support.
To date, in Libya there are 1,117 people affected by the coronavirus (source: WHO), joining the rest of the world in its battle against the pandemic. Libya has been ravaged by war for the last six years, which has decimated its infrastructure and limited access to basic essential services such as healthcare, sanitation, education and livelihoods.
The United Nation Development Programme’s (UNDP) “Strengthening Local Capacities for Resilience and Recovery” Project, which is supported by the European Union (EU), has been working in 24 municipalities across Libya over the past three years to strengthen the capacity of municipal institutions in providing as well as improving access to quality basic and social services to the most vulnerable groups around the country.
Amidst the outbreak, widespread lockdown and curfew restrictions, the supported municipalities are responding to COVID-19 threats using the infrastructures renovated and essential equipment delivered in the health and water and sanitation sectors by the project.
'Desperate' health situation
Most hospitals and medical facilities in war-torn Libya have not been functioning on their full potential since the beginning of the conflict. Today, the medical facilities rehabilitated by UNDP with the support of the EU, serve as main healthcare service points in the cities and their neighboring villages, providing medical care to 800,000 people. The EU-UNDP partnership has made possible the rehabilitation of health centers in Benghazi, Kufra, Sabratha, Sebha, Murzuq, Ghat and Thala.
Ambulances delivered by UNDP with EU’s support are on standby to provide transportation to people that could be potentially affected by COVID-19 in Hay Al Andalus and Murzuq. The two ICU ambulances provided in AlKufra are allocated for emergencies during curfew hours to transport patients.
In Murzuq, medical personnel are able to preserve drugs and medicine thanks to the generator provided to the main hospital last summer.
While in Adjabiya, the repaired CT scan machine at Almgarife Central Hospital is the only operational CT machine in the city and can be used to assist in treatment.
Cleaning and hygiene to help keep COVID-19 out of the cities
With funds from the EU, UNDP provided water pumps, generators, sprayer vehicles, sewage trucks, and garbage bins to various municipalities. The equipment became now more crucial than ever to improve hygiene standards, serving as a barrier to prevent the outspread of diseases.
In Adjabiya, the local authorities are using the pesticide sprayer vehicles provided earlier this year by UNDP-EU to disinfect public spaces and streets. Meanwhile, the generators in Sebha and Kufra are being used to ensure that power outages do not occur, and that clean water is always accessible, allowing people to frequently wash their hands - a fundamental proactive measure in the fight against the virus.
During the month of April, EU and UNDP in partnership with Peaceful Change Initiative (PCi), helped the authorities in Abu Salim district to sanitize several hospitals and clinics, with the goal of combating and reducing the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 in healthcare facilities.
Together with PCi, the project was also able to deliver protection and sterilization materials to the Municipality of Tripoli Centre, and sterilization and hygiene materials to the Municipality of Esbea, which included chlorine, handwashing detergents, hygiene gel, gloves, masks and sterile clothing. Sixty units of sterile clothing were delivered to Sabratha Municipality.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19
In partnership with PCi, the project carried out an awareness raising campaign in the Municipality of Brak Ashati to provide information and guide people on healthy practices that would contribute to prevent the spread of the virus. The campaign, which used educational posters as its main communication tool, was implemented in partnership with the Barak Ashati Municipality, and in cooperation with local shops and civil society activists.
Innovation and Education
While renovated schools are no longer operating during the country’s emergency lockdown, distance learning is leading the way as people in Libya utilize virtual tools to pursue their education and skill development.
Through Tatweer Entrepreneurship Campus (TEC), launched by Tatweer Research with the support of the EU and UNDP, the project supports an entrepreneurship ecosystem in Libya through promoting innovation, solution-oriented mindsets, and the use of technology across the country.
As Libya began its lockdown measures, the TEC team decided to opt for solutions that allowed for the continuation of their programs virtually through online applications. The TEC team created a presentation to deliver before the start of online sessions, providing students with advice and methods in which they could efficiently work and study from home while maintaining focus.
TEC is running #TecCamp and #TecCrash, online training programs focused on digital website programming and business management respectively; and hosting bi-weekly #TecTalks events that feature inspirational talks on technology and entrepreneurship. Startups that are part of the TEC incubator program in Tripoli, Sebha and Benghazi continue to receive mentorship and follow-up sessions online, focusing on ways to develop their businesses and provide solutions during the pandemic.
One of the TEC-supported startups, “Panda,” an e-learning platform, is currently providing ten thousand students and parents with distance learning tools free of charge, facilitating the continuation of studies during the lockdown; while “O-Class” is providing online classes to university students, and have gained leverage as a startup due to the increased demand for e-learning solutions. “Tazia,” a fashion design startup, has continued production from home and is using their online channels to build awareness and promote good practices during the pandemic. The company is also producing masks and providing them to clients. “Canva,” an online shopping platform specializing in handicrafts, is encouraging people to stay at home and plans to launch a virtual cooking competition to keep people entertained during the lockdown.
UNDP with the continued support of the EU, aims to keep moving forward to assist Libya in reaching the sustainable development goals despite the threats of instability inflicted by the conflict and the coronavirus. Through ongoing collaborations with municipalities, local communities and the private sector, The EU and UNDP will continue contributing to limit the outspread of the virus and its detrimental consequences on Libya’s already fragile healthcare and economic structure. Measures and infrastructure rehabilitation that were implemented during the past three years are providing solutions for today’s unique challenges and will continue to do so in the future.
The first phase of this project is implemented in the framework of the programme "Managing mixed migration flows in Libya through expanding protection space and supporting local socioeconomic development" financed by the North of Africa Window of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. The main objective of this programme is to comprehensively reinforce protection and resilience of migrants, refugees and host communities in Libya while supporting an improved migration management along the migration routes in the country.
The second phase of this project is implemented under ‘The Recovery, Stability and Socio-economic Development of Libya programme,’ funded by the European Union, through the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa – North Africa Window, and in partnership with the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), to improve living conditions and build resilience among vulnerable populations, including migrants, refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs), returnees and host communities.