Between February and December 2011, civil unrest and armed conflict resulted in a humanitarian crisis dominated by major protection needs. Although comprehensive_e statistics are not available, an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 people, civilians and combatants may have died or been injured in the conflict. Between February and September 2011, more than 700,000 migrants and third-country nationals crossed Libyan borders. Over 200,000 internally displaced persons were recorded during the height of the conflict.
The fighting had a major impact on services, creating a scale of need and deprivation never seen before in Libya. At the peak of the crisis, medical facilities lacked staff and life-saving supplies. Water networks broke down, affecting millions of people in Tripoli, BaniWalid and Sirte for prolonged periods.
Numerous assaults on migrants and minority groups were reported. The contamination of Explosive Remnants of War has been extensive throughout the country.
On 23 October, after seven months of intense fighting throughout the country, the National Transitional Council (NTC) announced the country’s liberation. This ushered in a period of political transition with three immediate priorities: (i) the formation of a new interim Government; (ii) the restoration of law and order, integration of disparate armed groups into the official security forces, and collection of weapons; (iii) the preparation for national elections in mid-2012. To support these efforts, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya was established in Libya in October.
OCHA’s swift, effective response to the humanitarian crisis owed much to the application of the principles of impartiality and independence in a country where OCHA had little prior experience.
Throughout the crisis, OCHA’s main objectives were to establish humanitarian leadership, secure access to affected populations, and facilitate principled and needs-based actions to meet the most critical humanitarian needs. These objectives were achieved through coordinating and leading inter-agency assessment missions, producing and distributing five funding and planning documents, and accurate and timely humanitarian reporting; and numerous advocacy initiatives. OCHA established strong working relationships with all parties to the conflict, including the former Government, and with other UN, international and national entities.
OCHA established a Country Office to coordinate the international humanitarian response after the conflict began in February 2011. The office was initially located in Egypt and Tunisia. As security conditions allowed, a sub-office was established in Benghazi in March. The office then moved to Tripoli in September.
Following Tripoli’s liberation by NTC forces in August 2011 and the establishment of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, humanitarian activities gave way to early recovery initiatives led by the transitional authorities. OCHA’s focus shifted to transition planning, winding down its operations. By September, it was evident that the new Libyan authorities, national councils and civil society groups could meet most of the post-conflict humanitarian needs, with the support of targeted assistance from the international community. This obviated the need for a common humanitarian action plan or appeal in 2012. To support coordination of international humanitarian assistance in 2012, a small OCHA presence will be retained in the Office of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the first quarter of 2012.