UN condemns attack on hospital for COVID-19 patients in Libya’s capital

A United Nations (UN) official condemned the recent attack on a hospital for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients in the Libyan capital Tripoli, saying it is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.

“I am appalled to have learned that heavy shelling hit Tripoli’s Al Khadra General Hospital today, injuring at least one health worker and damaging the fully-functioning medical facility,” Yacoub El Hillo, UN resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator in Libya, said in a statement.  

“The repeated calls by the United Nations and the international community for a cessation of hostilities have only been met with complete disregard and intensified fighting. This is unacceptable at a time when healthcare and health workers are vital in our fight against a global pandemic,” the statement said.

As of March 27 health facilities have been damaged to varying degrees due to proximity of clashes, including 14 facilities that have been closed, and another 23 have been at risk of closure due to shifting lines of conflict, according to the statement. 

The UN official called for an end to the military escalation to allow health authorities and aid agencies to respond to COVID-19 and continue to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to those in need.

“Libyan health authorities, together with the UN and our humanitarian partners, have been racing against time to contain the spread of the virus. If Libya is to have any chance against COVID-19, the ongoing conflict must come to an immediate halt,” the statement said.

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has documented at least 356 civilian deaths and 329 injuries since the outbreak of a conflict between the east-based army and the UN-backed government in April 2019. 

Since the beginning of the conflict, nearly 150,000 people in and around Tripoli have been forced to flee their homes, with 345,000 civilians remaining in frontline areas and some 749,000 living in conflict-affected areas, according to UNSMIL. -Xinhua 

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