Libya conflict: No end in sight to humanitarian crisis - The Libyan Report

Libya conflict: No end in sight to humanitarian crisis

More than 360 people on Tuesday participated in a hunger strike that started over the weekend at the Tajoura migrant detention center on the outskirts of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. This comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) said more than 1,000 people have been killed and over 5,500 injured since fighting in Tripoli broke out in April.

According to a Libyan migration official, migrants being held at the Tajoura center said they want the UN to guarantee their safety after two airstrikes hit the facility last Tuesday, killing more than 50 people and wounding another 130.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday condemned the "horrible attack" on the migrant center while emphasizing that a political solution to the conflict is necessary. Merkel pointed out that Germany, as a UN Security Council member, holds the chairmanship of the sanctions committee on Libya.

Read more: Opinion: Germany shares blame for Libya's unrest

Speaking at a diplomatic reception in Meseberg, north of Berlin, Merkel also demanded that the international community cease all arms exports to Libya and called for an "unconditional ceasefire" in Tripoli. The chancellor emphasized that the situation in Libya cannot be allowed to deteriorate like the war in Syria.

"Far too many weapons reach Libya from external actors," Merkel said. "There needs to be an arms embargo implemented in order to counteract any further escalation."

A migrant picks up clothes from the rubble of the Tajoura refugee center in Tripoli

Civilians caught in the crossfire

Fighting in Tripoli has been fierce since the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar, launched an offensive April for control of Tripoli. In a stalemated conflict, Haftar's forces are battling militias backed by Libya's internationally recognized government.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack on the refugee center, which may have been caught in the crossfire as it is located near Tripoli's only functioning airport.

Tripoli's Government of National Accord (GNA) blamed the attack on Haftar's forces, who in turn accused the GNA of carrying out the airstrike.

Read more: Libya's battle for Tripoli — what you need to know

Mahmoud Taweer, a spokesman for the Tajoura center, told the German news agency DPA that the detainees are refusing to sleep indoors, out of fear of attacks during the night. Many of those killed were crushed when the building's roof collapsed. At the time of the attack, 600 migrants were being held at the center.

"A UN delegation visited the center to persuade them to end the hunger strike, but to no avail," Taweer said, adding that the migrants do not want to be transferred to another center because they are afraid it would delay their journey out of Libya.

According to figures from the International Organization for Migration, at least 5,200 people are currently being held in official detention centers in Libya.

After Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was toppled in 2011, the country became a major transit point for migrants fleeing from the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa to Europe. Thousands of migrants captured by Libyan forces are being held in detention centers near the frontlines.

Read more: Khalifa Haftar: Libya's military strongman

Libya's impending drinking water crisis Lack of basic necessities A health system crisis is looming in Libya. Particularly the western parts of the country are running out of drinkable water. 101 of 149 conduits of the water supply system have already been destroyed in the wake of the chaotic situation in the country.

Libya's impending drinking water crisis Modern water pipeline system in deterioration Libya is mainly made up of arid desert. Under dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the 1980s saw the construction of a vast pipeline system known as the "Great Man-Made River." Those pipelines supply more than 70 percent of Libya's population with fresh water. However, since the fall of Gaddafi, the system has been damaged time and again.

Libya's impending drinking water crisis Civil war and chaos Since Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, the country has descended into chaos. The internationally recognized government in Tripoli is weak and not in control of large parts of Libya. On the other hand, renegade General Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libya National Army (LNA) control large areas predominantly in the east of the country.

Libya's impending drinking water crisis Target Tripoli The LNA, in particular, uses the water pipeline system in order to push through its demands, thereby endangering Libya's population. In May, armed forces loyal to Haftar forced water supply employees to cut off the main water pipeline to the besieged capital, Tripoli, for two days, in a bid to press authorities to release a prisoner.

Libya's impending drinking water crisis Water as a weapon of war It's not only the rebel groups who exploit the water supply system to push through their interests. There are also people who dismantle wellheads, in order to sell the copper those heads are made of. The United Nations have warned all sides in Libya not to use water as a weapon of war.

Libya's impending drinking water crisis Health hazards Mostafa Omar, a UNICEF spokesman for Libya, estimates that, in future, some four million people might be deprived of access to safe drinking water if no solution to the conflict is found. This could result in an outbreak of hepatitis A, cholera, and other diarrhea illnesses.

Libya's impending drinking water crisis Drinking water not fit to drink Water is not only scarce, but it's also contaminated in many areas. Bacteria or a high content of salt make it unfit for consumption. 'Often, in fact, it's no longer drinkable water,' says Badr al-Din al-Najjar, the head of Libya's National Center for Disease Control. Author: Lisa Hänel

An escalating humanitarian crisis

On Friday, the UN Security Council called for both sides to de-escalate tensions. As the death toll rises, the WHO has said it is continuing to send doctors and medical supplies to help hospitals treat patients.

"Our teams have performed more than 1,700 surgeries in 3 months," the WHO said in a statement.

The fighting has also caused civilians to desert entire neighborhoods, and the battle lines have changed little since fighting began. In the southern part of Tripoli, both sides are dug in and firing artillery at one another.

Read more: Libya's refugees caught in the crossfire of war

Rights groups and UN agencies have repeatedly warned against bombing migrant centers and other civilian buildings, since armed men attacked a shelter in April in southern Tripoli, leaving several people injured.

Haftar's supporters have said he is the only leader who can end militia rule and restore stability to Libya. His opponents have countered that he is a strongman who wants to establish a military dictatorship.

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wmr/sms (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)

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