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Tripoli Water Shut-Off Condemned

TRIPOLI, Libya

Water is expected to return to Greater Tripoli and many parts of Libya's Western region within the next two days, Tripoli's Central Municipality announced 14 April. Water has been cut off since a 6 April armed attack on the Shwerif pumping station when valves controlling flows of the country's Great Man Made River Project were disconnected, hitting supply to over 2 million inhabitants.

The assault was a continuation of year-long hostilities between the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar, which has been blamed for the attack. Electricity supply has also been cut in recent weeks at a time when the government is preparing to cope with an outbreak of COVID-19.

Fighting has escalated since mid-March, with intense bombing in the city, sometimes even hitting a hospital. The action is alleged to bring pressure on the government to release LNA detainees.

Libya had reported 24 COVID cases as of 10 April; lack of water and demands on hospitals will aggravate an already tense situation. The Ministry of Interior of the GNA warned on the same day that cutting off drinking water supplies amid the proliferation of the coronavirus pandemic seriously endangered the lives of children and families, and that the situation will be catastrophic if "the (Haftar) forces do not lift the suspension of potable water in the area".

The ministry called on international institutions and human rights organisations to "document this crime and pursue the perpetrators, in accordance with the mechanisms of international humanitarian law and United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions".

The armed group's actions were condemned 10 April by the United Nations humanitarian coordinator who has called the action “particularly reprehensible”.

"At this moment when Libya is fighting the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to water and electricity is more than ever life saving, and such individual acts to collectively punish millions of innocent people are abhorrent and must stop immediately," UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya Yacoub El Hillo said.

"More than two million people, including 600,000 children, who live in Tripoli and surrounding towns and cities, are suffering from water cuts for almost a week now. The water supply, part of the Great Man Made River, was disrupted by a group in the Shwerif area as a pressure tactic to secure the release of family members. All mediation efforts until now do not seem to have produced a resolution to the dispute while millions of Libyans remain deprived of water. 

"Water should never be used as a pressure card nor as a weapon of war. It is particularly reprehensible to deliberately cut off water supplies from people anywhere in Libya". 

"This deplorable water cut is coinciding with a serious power outage in the western region, also imposed as a result of another individual dispute...At this moment when Libya is fighting the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to water and electricity is more than ever lifesaving, and such individual acts to collectively punish millions of innocent people are abhorrent and must stop immediately".

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