January 14, 2015 / 12:07 AM / 4 years ago

Aid agencies fear Libya public services collapse, hospitals suffer

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Falling oil revenues and intensifying fighting across Libya mean the humanitarian situation is worsening and basic public services may collapse, aid agencies said.

Three years after the overthrow and killing of Muammar Gaddafi, two rival administrations compete for power and competing armed factions skirmish for control of territory across the North African state.

Conflict between Islamist militias and forces allied to the internationally recognized government has uprooted more than 450,000 people within the country, and at least 100,000 have fled to neighboring countries, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center and the United Nations.

Antoine Grand, head of the Red Cross Libya delegation, said that although basic public services were still functional across Libya, the opening of new front lines could have “heavy humanitarian consequences”.

Hospitals are suffering from a shortage of medical supplies and the flight of foreign workers, there are frequent fuel, power and water shortages, food prices have risen and people have problems withdrawing money from banks, he said.

“With the fall of oil prices and oil production, and the political power struggle over national resources, the state might soon not be able to pay salaries, subsidies and running costs for hospitals, water and electricity companies,” Grand told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email from Tunis.

DISRUPTION TO SCHOOLS

Ghassan Khalil, the United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) special representative in Libya, said that children were suffering from disruption to their school attendance and experiencing stress because of the conflict.

He hoped that a new round of U.N.-backed negotiations to try to end the conflict, which had been scheduled for this week, would enable children to return to normal life.

The talks looked in doubt on Tuesday after Tripoli-based faction Libya Dawn said it would postpone a decision on whether to participate until Sunday, which appeared to push back the chance of any meaningful talks between the two sides.

Civilians across Libya face violence, damage to their property, kidnapping, and increased rates of crime, according to Martin Vane, Danish Refugee Council country director in Libya.

Vane said many unexploded mines, bombs and shells had been reported throughout conflict-hit cities.

“Public facilities, schools, private properties and residential areas are reported to widely suffer from indiscriminate shelling with low state capacities to address the risks.”

Several organizations, including Medecins Sans Frontières, the International Medical Corps and UNICEF, said they were operating in Libya from neighboring countries with the help of national staff and local NGOs, because of safety concerns, but planned to return to the country as soon as possible.

Most foreign governments and international organizations pulled their staff and diplomats out of Libya over the summer when Libya Dawn drove rivals out of the capital and set up its own government in Tripoli.

Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; Editing by Tim Pearce

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