Already in a state of prolonged conflict, intensification of fighting and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions to block its spread have deeply impacted Libya. With needs, chief among them food needs, spiking, further destabilization of the economic sphere and disrupted supply chains have thrown already vulnerable communities into significantly more danger. This report provides a summary of the worsening food security situation as well as WFP in Libya’s COVID-19 response since the start of the pandemic.
Food Security Situation
Libya is extremely vulnerable to the spread of COVID- 19 and is identified as one of the 27 countries “most vulnerable to emerging outbreaks of illness" in the Global Health Security (GHS) Index Report, published in March 2020. Libyan authorities, like many countries, have implemented public health restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, closing air, land and sea borders, imposing curfews and social distancing measures. Continuous fighting and instability across the country, along with the COVID- 19 restrictions, has had a significant negative impact on all components of food security: food access, food availability, food utilization and stability.
According to the April Joint Market Monitoring Initiative (JMMI) report, food prices have significantly increased across most provinces. The food component of the Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) has risen by an average of 26.6 percent since the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions. In the South, it has increased by as much as 42.6 percent.
As most vulnerable households depend on local markets, they are highly susceptible to rising food prices. Prices are also being inflated by traders reducing the amount of certain foods in markets, storing supplies to sell later at higher prices when food is scarcer. As such, many areas are reporting food availability problems.
In addition to COVID-related border closures and import restrictions, movement of food supplies has been disrupted among the three regions due to conflict, as well as government movement controls and militia checkpoints. Many agencies, including WFP, report challenges related to access, especially negotiating checkpoints when carrying supplies en route. Some checkpoints are managed by local militias who do not have clear lines of command. Obtaining official authorizations continues to require significant time and coordination, which delays food distributions.
Continued conflict in the main agricultural areas in Libya has also had a negative impact on agricultural activities and affected the availability of inputs. Curfews and movement restrictions from COVID-19, along with disrupted supply chains, have further impacted the agriculture sector and farming households. Many cannot afford to continue under these constraints, pushing more households to abandon agricultural activities - further reducing medium- and long-term food availability.
With reduced domestic production, lower imports and increased food prices, previously food-secure populations are becoming increasing more insecure. This is a worrying trend given an already high proportion of Libyans (69 percent) are “marginally food insecure” and are likely using both food and livelihood coping mechanisms to mitigate inadequate food consumption, such as selling their land or homes or engaging in illegal or degrading work. According to the WFP Libya mobile Vulnerability Analysis Mapping (VAM) April-May round data, food security indicators are poor especially in the South, with the highest proportion of households with inadequate food consumption and relying on food- based coping strategies found in Murzuq. Interviews with displaced households showed that more than 70 percent of IDPs are adopting either crisis or emergency food strategies. While these strategies may be reversible, prolonged insecurity coupled with an economic downturn brought by COVID-19 could further erode household resilience.
Internally displaced people (IDPs), migrants and refugees are some of the most vulnerable and impacted by COVID- 19, the latter mainly because of their reliance on “daily” labour which has plummeted due to coronavirus, causing a loss in their revenue sources. Additionally,
In addition to COVID-related border closures and import restrictions, movement of food supplies has been disrupted among the three regions due to conflict, as well as government movement controls and militia checkpoints. Many agencies, including WFP, report challenges related to access, especially negotiating checkpoints when carrying supplies en route. Some checkpoints are managed by local militias who do not have clear lines of command. Obtaining official authorizations continues to require significant time and coordination, which delays food distributions. their overall health situation is already precarious and often they cannot access health services and lack access to social safety nets and support systems. A quick needs assessment undertaken by WFP between 30 May to 03 June 2020 found that on average, one out of two respondents had poor or borderline food consumption. A majority showed significantly higher frequency of using negative coping strategies to adapt to food scarcity by reducing the number of meals per day or limiting the size of meal portions. During the previous month, 77 percent of respondents could not access supermarkets, and 70 percent had no money to buy food. During quality control calls conducted by WFP in May 2020 to gather information on their experience over the previous 30 days, 33 percent of the migrants interviewed stated they could not access food due to an increase in prices, and 28 1 percent reported having no money to buy food.
The June 2020 WFP VAM regional update includes Libya as one of the countries whose levels of food security are most affected by the impact of the COVID-19, adding the concern of the impact to its economy, which is expected to contract significantly in 2020 with an estimated negative 19.4 percent GDP 2 growth.
As a result of the current insecurity and socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 across the country, many Libyans, migrants and refugees are now living on the edge of their capacity to cope and are sacrificing their wellbeing in order to feed themselves and their families. As a result, humanitarian organizations including WFP have been receiving a higher number of requests for food assistance from national authorities, local municipalities and local leaders—estimated by 20 June at more than 100,000 people since March 2020 (Fig.1).
WFP is working to reach the most vulnerable and most severely impacted IDPs, host communities, migrants and refugees. To do this, the operation has adjusted its programming to implement precautionary measures for all interventions at all phases and scaling up interventions in order to meet the need. However, lack of confirmed funding is impacting ability to respond to these new requests for assistance. As a result, WFP is prioritising resources to provide unconditional food assistance – both in-kind and cash – to the most vulnerable populations, newly displaced people and migrants in urban settings. WFP is also working together with sister agencies and partners to find more effective and innovative approaches to address food needs during this crisis.
The number of food insecure people in Libya has increased from 336,000 to an estimated 683,000, of which 209,000 are migrants and refugees and 474,000 are Libyans (Table 1).
There is no question whether food insecurity exists in the country; the question is how we can rise to the challenge to address it. Continued humanitarian support to address food insecurity across the country is essential, now more than ever, to ensure that this global health crisis does not also become a food crisis.