Ongoing conflict and the breakdown of the economy have left more than a half million children in need of humanitarian aid in Libya, according to the United Nations children's agency.
“Six years since the crisis began in Libya, over 550,000 children need assistance because of political instability, on-going conflict, displacement, and economic collapse,” said Geert Cappelaere, the UN Children's Fund (UNICF) Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement following his first visit to the country.
“Heavy violence in some parts of the country has forced families to flee their homes. More than 80,000 children are internally displaced and migrant children in Libya are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, including in detention centres,” he added.
Since 2011, UNICEF has been expanding its assistance to respond to children's needs on the ground.
Mr. Cappelaere pointed out that more than 1.3 million children were vaccinated against polio last year. UNICEF and partners, including national institutions, were able to maintain nearly universal immunization coverage even when violence was at its peak. UNICEF has partnered with 28 municipalities across Libya under the 'Together for Children' campaign to support children's basic rights.
“At a child-friendly space where children play, learn and receive psychosocial support, boys and girls spoke of their dreams of living in peace and prosperity. We have to support each and every child in Libya – especially the most vulnerable – to reach their full potential,” continued the senior UNICEF official.
In discussions with the authorities in Tripoli and Benghazi, UNICEF reaffirmed its commitment to provide all the support possible to reach children in need wherever they are in the country.
Mr. Cappelaere noted that in October, UNICEF plans to: have all its international staff operating full-time from Libya; scale up further assistance to reach 1.5 million girls and boys; and help strengthen national institutions and civil society.
UNICEF reiterated that the wellbeing of girls and boys in Libya should be a priority for authorities, civil society and the international community.
“In the interest of children, UNICEF is calling for an immediate political solution to the crisis and an end to the violence,” concluded Mr. Cappelaere.