UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Georgette Gagnon concludes a four-day visit to Benghazi to discuss humanitarian and development situation
Benghazi, 23 September 2021 - With representatives of the United Nations Country Team based in Benghazi, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Georgette Gagnon today concluded a four-day visit to Benghazi. Ms. Gagnon visited health facilities, medical warehouses, the Al Heleas IDP settlement, the rehabilitated Benghazi library and AlShabbi Corniche as well as the offices of Tatweer Research and LibAid. Ms. Gagnon thanked the Government of National Unity and the Benghazi municipality for their full cooperation in her visit.
In her meeting with the Deputy Mayor of Benghazi and municipal officials, Ms. Gagnon discussed current needs in the municipality and UN efforts to support some 68 humanitarian and inclusive development projects on community stabilization, rehabilitation of infrastructure, and access to basic services.
“Working together with the Benghazi municipality on humanitarian and reconstruction assistance and unification of institutions supports greater stability and prosperity for people in Libya,” said Ms. Gagnon.
In meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Health and the health emergency center in Benghazi, Ms. Gagnon discussed priorities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic including WHO’s critical support for the extraordinary efforts of Libyan health authorities, such as the provision of oxygen, medical and laboratory supplies, medicines, vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE) for the health workforce.
Ms. Gagnon reinforced her commitment to advocate for increased supplies of routine children’s vaccines in Libya due to chronic shortages in a visit to UNICEF-supported cold rooms and vaccination sites for COVID-19 and children’s routine vaccines.
Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Gagnon witnessed the invaluable work of the Director and health care professionals at Benghazi’s Children Hospital. She visited the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit and Newborn Ward which UNDP recently rehabilitated. She discussed WHO’s provision of technical and operational support to strengthen healthcare services at the hospital, which treats children from Sirte to Musaid and as far south as Kufra, and the urgent need to increase the hospital’s capacity.
Ms. Gagnon saw first-hand the resumption of specialized services and disease prevention at the Benghazi Centre for Immunology and Infectious Diseases, which aims to ensure health care for all and that everyone living with HIV has access to HIV treatment. WHO’s support to the Centre to treat infectious diseases as part of a programme that includes medication, enhancing the diagnostic capabilities of the National Center for Disease Control, and the health information system in Libya was stressed.
In response to the needs of women, girls and boys in Benghazi and the eastern region, UNICEF and UNFPA’s extended support to authorities and non-governmental organizations for maternal health services, prevent and address gender-based violence, empower and build capacities of young Libyans and evidence-based planning was highlighted during the visit.
In their interactive dialogue with LibAid, a key partner of UNHCR, IOM, and other UN agencies, Ms. Gagnon and UN Country Team representatives focused on joint initiatives to address the long-standing humanitarian needs of vulnerable people in Libya, including strengthened operational and coordination approaches.
At the office of Tatweer Research Center, partnership projects with UNDP and WFP to boost support for youth in livelihood and entrepreneurship opportunities were highlighted. Ms. Gagnon met with vibrant young entrepreneurs who have created start-ups developing apps on health management and labour mobility for government and the private sector, as well as other business concepts.
The UN team visited the Benghazi Public Library and Benghazi AlShabbi Corniche stretching along the Mediterranean Sea as part of UNDP’s support to rebuild the heart of the old city. Now over 4,000 visitors per week have access to the historic library and bookshop. This infrastructure is the first to be rehabilitated in the central square of the old city.
In the UN Country Team’s visit to Al Heleas IDP camp, Ms. Gagnon met with Tawerghan elders and civil society representatives to discuss ways to address post-return issues and providing for the immediate needs of Al Heleas IDP camp where WFP provides all food distribution. UNHCR is undertaking shelter and infrastructure rehabilitation and the distribution of core relief items, and UNICEF assists with education and clean water facilities. Although returns to Tawergha have continued, more work is needed to ensure personal security, social cohesion and durable solutions for Tawerghans and host communities together with national authorities.
The Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator also met with members of the Marzuq community who have been displaced due to a rapid deterioration in the security situation in Marzuq. They presented requirements aimed at securing the town and addressing human rights violations to permit their return.
Humanitarian, protection and human rights concerns regarding the situation of migrants and refugees were raised in most meetings. Ms. Gagnon stressed the need for improved protection for the human rights of migrants and refugees, including alternatives for those arbitrarily detained. The UN Country Team indicated its readiness to work with Libyan authorities to develop effective migration governance and labour mobility policies and practices. Ms. Gagnon renewed the urgent need for the Ministry of Interior’s “Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration” to lift its suspension of IOM and UNHCR-facilitated voluntary humanitarian repatriation and evacuation flights and departures of hundreds of migrants and refugees from Libya, including Benghazi.
Ms. Gagnon heard from international non-governmental organizations and humanitarian partners about increasing challenges with their access to all locations and people in need of humanitarian assistance in the region. Actions to address access constraints due to security procedures, logistical hurdles and limited resources were agreed.
Ms. Gagnon stressed the imperative of UNHAS’ weekly flights to Benghazi for the provision of critical humanitarian and other assistance managed by the WFP which also manages the UN hub in Benghazi that hosts all UN staff working in the region.
Concluding her productive visit to Benghazi, Ms. Gagnon said, “I witnessed and am encouraged about the open dialogue we held with Libyan actors on continuing partnerships to strengthen the UN Country Team’s engagement and support for the provision of basic services, livelihood opportunities and humanitarian assistance to sustain peace, rebuild social cohesion and advance inclusive development in the country.”