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Libyans suffer cash shortage ahead of Eid al-Fitr

In the days ahead of Eid al-Fitr — which begins Wednesday — families embark on shopping sprees to buy new clothes and other goods, but renewed clashes between rival forces in and around Tripoli, cash shortage, and rising prices mean that this year’s Eid will be more frugal than those of previous years, and in oil-rich Libya, that hurts.

Scenes of hundreds of citizens lining in front of banks for long hours in several areas to withdraw money became familiar, where the daily withdrawal limit stands between LYD 200 – 1,000 per capita.

The latest U.N. Libya Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report on May 27 said prices of fresh vegetables have increased by 20 percent in Tripoli markets since the start of the conflict, due in part to the fact that agricultural areas to the south of Tripoli have been cut off behind frontlines, while prices for other items such as milk and cooking oil have also increased.

The report noted that some of these increases in food prices may be in some part due to increased demand during the fasting month of Ramadan.

The report says that according to latest figures, at least 82,300 individuals have fled their homes (internally displaced – IDP) since the start of the conflict. Of those, approximately half are believed to be children.

The OCHA report says the impact of clashes is being felt outside of Tripoli, as more IDPs arrive in other areas and disruptions in humanitarian access and in transportation of essential goods such as food and fuel exacerbate already existing scarcities.

The report adds that the lack of cash liquidity is also exacerbating the need of affected populations, especially in the south. The no-fly zone imposed by the Libyan National Army (LNA) in the south has interrupted distribution of cash to banks in the south outside of Sabha, impacting the ability of populations already facing scarcities to obtain food and other basic goods.

Humanitarian actors estimate that over 100,000 men, women and children remain in immediate frontline areas, with over 400,000 more in areas directly impacted by clashes (within a one-kilometre radius of the front). Concerns are high for civilians unable to leave these areas, as conditions deteriorate, and emergency services are unable to get through.

Libya has been plagued by chaos, violence, and economic hardship since the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

On April 4, military commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to seize Tripoli, pitting the LNA against the Tripoli government forces backed by powerful militias.

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