UN warns Libya vulnerable as country suffers first virus death

Fighters loyal to the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) open fire from their position in the Al-Sawani area south of the Libyan capital Tripoli during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar. (AFP/Mahmud Turkia)
Short Url
Updated 03 April 2020

UN warns Libya vulnerable as country suffers first virus death

  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned that the health system in Libya was already on the verge of collapse
  • Several hospitals near fighting zones south of the capital had been damaged or closed

TRIPOLI: The United Nations warned Friday that health services in conflict-plagued Libya were already fragile as the North African country recorded its first death from the novel coronavirus.
Health authorities said an 85-year-old woman was confirmed to have had COVID-19 on examination after her death, without giving further details.
The UN-recognized, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which controls the west of the country, has officially recorded 10 cases of the virus in Libya.
No cases have been declared in the south and east, which are largely under the control of a rival administration supported by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned Friday that the health system in Libya, the scene of a year of fighting for control of Tripoli, was already on the verge of collapse.
“The ongoing conflict has severely impacted the country’s health system and medical services, which have limited financial resources and face shortages of basic equipment and medicines,” UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said.
He told a press briefing in Geneva that several hospitals near fighting zones south of the capital had been damaged or closed.
Baloch called for the release of hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees held by Libyan authorities in detention centers.
They are “particularly vulnerable and exposed, given often poor sanitation facilities, limited health services and overcrowded conditions,” the UNHCR spokesman said.
Libya has been gripped by chaos since longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi was brought down and killed in a 2011 uprising backed by NATO.
Its rival administrations have launched preventive measures against COVID-19, including night-time curfews and the closure of restaurants, cafes and non-essential services.


Flash floods in southern Yemen kill five, displace hundreds

Updated 05 June 2020

Flash floods in southern Yemen kill five, displace hundreds

  • Five shepherds in the Henan valley were swept away as floods hit farms

AL-MUKALLA: Heavy rains and flash floods hit provinces in southern Yemen on Wednesday and Thursday, killing five people, displacing hundreds of families and isolating villages, local government officials told Arab News.

The heavy rain that began on Wednesday in Yemen's southern province of Hadramout triggered flash floods that killed five shepherds in the Henan valley and damaged farms.

“The five young men went to the valley to bring back their camels and sheep before floods washed them away,” Hesham Al-Souaidi, a local government official, told Arab News by telephone on Thursday.

Local authorities and residents found three bodies and are still searching for the other two.

Al-Souaidi said that flood waters destroyed farms and killed a large number of livestock in the agricultural Wadi Hadramout.

Southern Yemeni provinces have been bracing for the tropical depression since Saturday, when it hit Oman’s southern city of Salalah, as the country’s National Meteorological Center issued alerts, urging Yemenis to avoid traveling during the the storm and to avoid flood courses.

In coastal parts of Hadramout, hundreds of families living near flood channels were forced to flee to after flooding reached unprecedented levels.

Amen Barezaeg, a local government official assigned by the Hadramout governor to lead a relief committee, told Arab News that his team has documented the displacement of 450 families from Mayfa Hajer district alone, adding that the floods damaged roads, farms and isolated many remote areas in the province.

“We are now working on reopening roads to reach the isolated villages. The damage is huge,” he said.

Flash floods displaced dozens of families, washed away hundreds of palm trees and damaged dozens of houses in Hajr town, west of the city of Al-Mukalla, Hadramout province capital.

In some areas of Hadramout, residents said the floods were more destructive than those caused by cyclones over the last five years.

“We have never seen floods like this. Only the floods in 1996 were as strong as these,” Mohammed Bahamel, a journalist from Boroum Mayfa village, west of Al-Mukalla, told Arab News.

Heavy rains triggered flash flooding that wreaked similar havoc in Shabwa, Abyan and Aden, but with no reported casualties, according to local officials.

A government official in Shabwa province told Arab News that the floods washed away farms, isolated villages and damaged several houses.

In Aden, bulldozers were seen clearing mud from the streets as government officials inspected damage caused by the rain.

In April, the internationally recognized government declared Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, a “disaster” area after torrential rains and heavy flooding killed more than 10 people and damaged infrastructure.

Local health officials and residents say that the latest rainfall may set the stage for the spread of the coronavirus and other diseases that killed more than 1,000 people in May.

Wednesday’s floods destroyed the main road that links Hadramout province with Aden, disrupting movement of medical teams and vital medical supplies, including testing kits, officials said.

Meteorologists predicted that the rains would disappear on the weekend.

“Remnants of the tropical depression continue to produce rain across southwest Yemen. Rain will wane over the area on Friday,” Jason Nicholls, a meteorologist for AccuWeather, said on Twitter on Thursday.