HotSpots H2O, June 4: Thousands Go Thirsty as Fighting Halts Desalination in Derna, Libya

The Rundown

Fighting in Derna, Libya, reached “unprecedented levels” in recent weeks, leaving thousands of residents without water, food, and medicine. The city, on Libya’s eastern coast, has been encircled by the Libyan National Army (LNA) since July 2017. The LNA is trying to take Derna from a coalition of local fighters and Islamist militants. On May 15, the LNA escalated its campaign, using airstrikes and artillery shelling in an effort to capture the city.

Fighting has killed several citizens and devastated Derna’s infrastructure. A week ago, the city suspended operations at its main desalination plant due to nearby attacks. The shutdown disrupted Derna’s main water network, leaving the majority of the city’s 125,000 residents without running water. Only one part of the city, Sheiha, is partially fed by well water.

“Some of the attacks have been targeting residential areas, besides heavy ground clashes.The humanitarian situation is worsening as severe water, food and medicine shortages continue to exacerbate.” –A report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). No humanitarian aid has been allowed into the city since mid-March.

By The Numbers

125,000 People in Derma without access to water.

600-1,300 Households that have been displaced from outlying mahallas (neighborhoods) in Derna. The displaced have fled to the center of Derna city.

17 Civilian casualties reported as of June 1, including two children. The OCHA report also noted that 22 civilians have been injured.

7 Years since the Libyan civil war began.

378,000 Libyan children in need of life-saving assistance in 2018, according to UN estimates. This number was calculated prior to the Derna conflict.

On The Radar

The United Nations is calling on the warring parties to “respect international humanitarian law and minimise civilian casualties,” and to allow humanitarian aid into the city. So far, the LNA has taken control of Derna’s western entry points, along with a handful of other strategic locations, but the battle for the rest of the city rages on.  

In the meantime, power to Derna has been restored after a two-day cut. More than 100,000 residents lacked electricity after widespread circuit failures, but the issue has been repaired for now. Shortages of other amenities, including water and medicine, continue to affect the embattled city.

Resources and Further Reading

In context reporting from Circle of Blue: HotSpots H2O, April 9: Spotlight on Libya

Derna Rapid Situation Overview Libya, 1 June 2018 (Relief Web)
Libya | Protection of civilian concerns in Derna Flash Update #6 (as of 30 May 2018) (Relief Web/OCHA)
Neighborhoods hit and supplies cut in Libya’s Derna, U.N. says (Reuters)
UN report: Libya’s Derna is suffering as clashes hit an all-time violence records (The Libya Observer)
UN says fighting in Libya’s Derna kills 17 civilians (News24)

UNICEF: 378,000 children in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance in Libya (Relief Web)

Kayla Ritter is a recent graduate of Michigan State University, where she studied International Relations and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. She is currently based in Manton, Michigan. Kayla enjoys running, writing, and traveling. Contact Kayla Ritter

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