libya water crisis

Libya’s acute water crisis threatens the basic health and safety of millions

Libya is grappling with a major water crisis in the wake of increasing heatwaves across the African nation caused by the impact of climate change. Millions of Libyans are struggling to access basic amenities such as essential goods and healthcare due to frequent power cuts and rapidly spreading the COVID-19 virus.

Justin Brady, UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) Head of Office for Libya, expressed concerns about extreme weather and climate change in Libya that are unable handle by people in Libya and humanitarian and development communities.

According to UNOCHA, repeated attacks on the popular Great Man-Made River in Libya, which provides about 60 percent of the total freshwater used by the country, have threatened water security in a majority of the regions. Furthermore, the drying up of the Wadi Kaam Dam due to lack of rain and extreme heatwaves has disrupted agricultural production and other irrigation-dependent projects in Libya.

“This can have a catastrophic effect on people’s health, livelihoods, agriculture, hygiene and the spread of communicable diseases. Conflict and the current health situation have overshadowed the climate impacts to which Libya is very vulnerable,” Brady said.

Call for immediate action

The UN official further called on the international community to initiate immediate action to promote water security in Libya and protect millions of lives who are at potential risk of losing access to basic amenities.

Earlier this year, the United Nations Children’s Fund also stated that about 190 wells have become non-operational as a result of continuous attacks on the man-made river systems. Destruction of dams and wells are causing significant water losses on a daily basis, affecting the flow of consumption water.

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In order to assist Libya in overcoming the water crisis, the UNOCHA launched a global campaign titled “#TheHumanRace” against climate change. The campaign aims to ensure appropriate climate action in solidarity with people in disaster-prone and climate change-hit countries across the world.

Authorities cut water supply

Last week, Libya authorities shut down water supplies to various cities after gunmen threatened to obstruct the water network. They demanded the Libyan authorities to release jailed Kadhafi-era official Abdullah al-Senussi. As per a statement issued by the Great Man-Made River water authority, the decision to cut water supply was taken to prevent any potential attack on the key network that supplies water from underground wells in the Sahara to Tripoli.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdelhamid Al-Dbaiba also condemned the gunmen behind the threat as it affected the lives of several people in the region.