Libya Tribune

Since 30 July 2017, the eastern Libyan city of Derna has been subject to tight military encirclement.

The closure of access points has made it difficult to supply markets, banks and health facilities, which has led to a deteriorating humanitarian situation for those remaining in the city.

On 30 October, the ongoing conflict briefly escalated as airstrikes hit the mahalla (neighbourhood) of El-Fataih.1

To inform humanitarian response plans regarding the situation in Derna, the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) in Libya (DRC and ACTED), with the support of REACH, conducted a rapid assessment to provide a snapshot of needs.

Between 7 and 9 November, with data collection support from Ofoq, the RRM assessed the humanitarian situation in all 11 mahallas of Derna city.

Data was collected through 33 key informant (KI) interviews, 28 of them face-to-face and 5 remote, conducted with community leaders, NGO staff, medical professionals and others. The information in this situation overview should be considered indicative only.

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KEY FINDINGS

  • Formal entry and exit points into and out of Derna remained almost entirely closed, with only limited access to the city via informal entry and exit points. Transit through these informal points, always risky, has decreased over the last two weeks due to airstrikes in the vicinity, making it more difficult for people and goods to move in and out.

  • All mahallas except for Deil el-Wadi and Sheiha reportedly lacked a functional, accessible market. Accessing these central markets from outlying districts was reportedly difficult due to a lack of petrol and public transportation. Even so, KIs in several areas reported that residents relied almost exclusively on stores and markets for their food.

  • KIs in every part of Derna reported that residents were unable to access food consistently over the two weeks prior to data collection, due largely to the lack of access to markets and the unavailability of staple market items. Widespread shortages of bread and flour were reported, as well as of every assessed type of fuel.

  • Due to severe restrictions on the amount of cash circulating in local markets, certified cheques had reportedly become one of the main payment modalities in use. As banks were mostly non-functional, hawala shops had become the main financial service providers.

  • No medical facilities were functioning in 3 of Derna’s 11 mahallas (Esh-Shabija, 400 and El-Fataih), including 2 of the areas farthest from the centre. Combined with the lack of petrol or transport to access facilities elsewhere, this implies that many Derna residents lacked physical access to healthcare. KIs reported particularly high need for emergency care, chronic disease treatment and rehabilitation treatment.

  • Only three mahallas (Deil el-Wadi, Bab Tubraq and Hay Khadija) reportedly retained widespread access to Derna’s main water network. Residents of other mahallas relied on bottled water and public boreholes, the latter of which provided poor-quality water.

  • Municipal trash collection services in Derna had reportedly broken down. Residents left their trash in designated, though unofficial, public spaces, where it often remained in place for over a week before being collected and burned by volunteers.

  • The top two humanitarian needs in Derna, as reported by KIs, were healthcare and cash: specifically, more healthcare facilities, a wider array of available health services and better access to hard cash.

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