Food Security Situation in Libya:
2021 opened with the promise of steps towards reconciliation and reunification. But by December, Libya’s transition had stalled. Following the ceasefire of October 2020, the Second Berlin Conference in June 2021 sought to strengthen the roadmap to resolving legal, economic, and security issues. At the end of July, the Libyan Joint Military Committee announced the reopening of a strategic coastal road linking the country’s east and west which stretches along the length of Libya’s coastline. This enabled freer movement of goods and people, improved access to medical and humanitarian services, and enabled family reunification. Yet longer-term progress was difficult to secure. The House of Representatives failed to approve the proposed budget for the year. In December 2021, disagreements over the rules to conduct a much-anticipated general election led to a postponement of polls to June 2022.
Stabilizing food security is a significant challenge, as farmers have limited access to agricultural production inputs and support for animal health care due to years of conflict around main agricultural areas and disruption of agricultural extension services due to COVID-19 and instability. More households are abandoning agricultural activities, thus reducing the medium- and long-term availability of food. Supporting household food security among vulnerable populations and supporting their livelihoods must therefore go hand in hand with restoring agricultural services for the longer term.
The broader picture is of a halting economic recovery, hamstrung by a liquidity crisis and low spending and productivity due to damaged infrastructure and the impacts of the pandemic. At the end of 2021, a household needed 13 percent more cash to meet its needs than it did in March 20201. The least developed eastern and southern parts of the country are slowest to recover.
In June, a dramatic 660 percent increase in COVID-19 cases led the Ministry of Health to declare a public health state of emergency that remained in effect until August 20212. The restrictions resulted in the closure of many informal sector businesses, increased unemployment, and reduced incomes. The most vulnerable populations were mainly displaced people and migrants who faced challenges accessing food and essential services.
The 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview 3 published in December 2020 projected that around 1.8 million people4 in Libya needed assistance in 2021. Of these, close to a third were predicted to need food assistance, of which 38 percent were women, 36 percent children, and 15 percent people living with disabilities.
A multi-sectoral December 2021 needs survey showed that a high proportion of people in the south of the country are food insecure – 16 percent, compared to seven percent in the east and four percent in the west5. Around 83 percent of households surveyed adopted at least one livelihood coping strategy. Almost all households in Wadi Ashashti, Almargeb, Al Kufra, Tobruk, and Murzuq deployed negative coping strategies to deal with inadequate food. Only forty percent of women surveyed aged 15 to 49 years had an adequately diverse diet, and just 14 percent of children between 6 and 23 months consumed the minimum adequate diet from all the surveyed mantikas.
Now in 2022, the cumulative impact of COVID-19 mobility restrictions has affected the food security levels of 511,000 vulnerable people in Libya, particularly those relying on casual work found on a daily basis. In addition, the general security situation in Libya, despite having improved following the truce that was signed in October 2020, continues to be volatile. While these drivers are external to food systems, they interact to create multiple, compounding impacts at many different points within food systems, to the detriment of food security and nutrition.
What is the Food Security Sector: The FSS, co-chaired by WFP and FAO, has three objectives:
Ensure that crisis-affected vulnerable populations in Libya have access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food.
Protect livelihoods and promote livelihood-based coping capacities of crisis-affected vulnerable populations
Protect agricultural livelihoods and build national and community resilience against current and future food insecurity shocks
FSS Libya is supported by the global Food Security Cluster which is co-lead by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Food Security Sector in Libya Partners: FSS in Libya is co-chaired by the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization. The International Organization of Migration is an official HRP partner in the sector. FFS in Libya also has around 13 partners (outside HRP) containing international and national organizations, who contribute each in their own way to FSS related activities.
Role of the Food Security Sector:
The Food Security Sector aims to progressively strengthen and expand its footprint across Libya, including to the mantikas with moderate and acceptable food security levels, as the increasing use of negative coping strategies is expected to have a direct impact on food security. People targeted by food assistance have been identified based on geographical and household targeting criteria, using proxy indicators. Vulnerable Libyans have been jointly identified with the local crisis committees in consultation with partners, including NGOs. Targeted people include IDPs, returnees, non-displaced hosting communities including farming communities, refugees and migrants with a priority to female-headed households, the elderly and households with persons living with disabilities. Refugees and migrants will also indirectly benefit from food assistance provided to Libyans, as it is expected to help local markets stabilize, and as a result, to contribute maintaining the prices of basic food items at an accessible level for nondirected beneficiaries in the same areas.
Based on the sectoral needs severity and identified vulnerable groups in each year’s HNO, the Sector prioritizes response interventions targeting the most vulnerable communities, as well as the mantikas identified as having critical or severe needs. Emergency food assistance for refugees and migrants in detention centres is also prioritized as an emergency life-saving measure, and a special position paper was produced by the Food Security Sector along with Migrants & refugees Platform to explain the emergencies and procedures for such interventions. It is critical that emergency food assistance in detention centres is a stop-gap measure and does not sustain the perpetuation of inhumane living conditions in detention centres. Nor does it take the responsibly away from the local authorities.
In addition to direct food assistance, the Sector supports agricultural, livestock and fishery systems, by providing emergency agricultural inputs as well as vocational trainings through FAO, in order to minimize the rate of abandoning agricultural activities, capacitate Libyan populations to produce their own food and sell the surplus to generate some income.
The Sector also collaborates closely with the Education and Health sectors through joint activities, such as school feeding programmes and nutrition surveys. The Sector also will also collaborate with the Education Sector on different initiatives, such as Home-grown School Gardens (vegetable growing for school feeding) and rapid food responses with ready-to-use food, such as date bars already stored at predetermined schools for emergency cases.
The Food Security Sector continues working closely with the Cash Working Group (CWG) on market monitoring,
Linking short-term humanitarian interventions, such as immediate food assistance to the most vulnerable groups, with longer-term development support, such as creation of livelihood opportunities and income -generating initiatives is critical for the Sector. All activities implemented by the Sector integrate nutrition-sensitive programming, gender transformative approaches and conflict-sensitive design.
Milestones in 2021:
- Healthy School Kitchen project launched in Tripoli (in Jan'22)
- Hydroponic training launched in Sebha (in Feb'21)
- 697 households (4 182 people) were provided with 30 tonnes of soft wheat seed (Bread) and 30 tonnes of hard wheat seed (Durum) by FAO, reaching a total of 2743 households (16 458 people).
- Commodity voucher expanded to over 23,000 beneficiaries in Azzawiya/Tripoli/Zwara (in Mar'21)
- Education-Cannot Wait fund School Feeding launched in Sebha (in Apr'21)
- FAO provided 2 046 households (12 276 people) with 2 046 vegetable seed kits each comprising carrot (250 g), hot pepper (40 g), onion (400 g) and tomato (50 g); and
- Trained 155 farmers in relevant wheat and vegetable seed plantation, cultivation and various agricultural practices from seed sowing to harvesting. (Apr 21)
- Libya Food Security & Nutrition Survey reports published (in Apr'21, Jul'21 & Nov'21)
- The first Decentralized Evaluation for GFA+School Feeding in 2017-2019 completed (in Jul'21)
- Restricted value voucher introduced to GFA in Azzawiya (in Sep'21)
- The first Market project completed in Ubari (in Sep'21)
- Rapid responses to flood-affected households provided through RRM (in Nov'21)
- The FLAs signed with 17 Cooperating Partners (in 2021)
- School Feeding training conducted for school feeding focal points in Benghazi & Ejdabya (in Dec'21)
To increase the level of contributions to WFP Libya operations, the CO aims at broadening the basis of donors and reduce the dependency risk of the operations, and an adequate visibility is consistently and jointly planned and done with the communication team. New partnerships are also currently being explored, including the Private sector and UN pooled funds, and further developments are to be delivered in 2022. Potential new donors for the coming year are the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council.