UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- A possible humanitarian disaster is feared involving about 125,000 people in and around the Libyan city of Sirte should the mobilization of troops nearby lead to hostilities, a UN spokesman said on Monday.
Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told correspondents in a virtual briefing that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported the civilians in and around the central coastal city remain "at great risk" in the face of violence.
Last month, the spokesman for Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, appealed for a ceasefire around strategic Sirte because of the military build-up "rather than adding oil to the fire."
Libya also is suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic with 3,837 cases and 83 deaths reported, Haq said. Most of the cases are in the western and southern parts of the country of about 6.8 million people.
Capacity for testing, tracing and treating people remains extremely low across the country and continues to be concentrated in Tripoli and eastern Benghazi.
Health authorities in Tripoli have dispatched a shipment of 20,000 swabs to Sebha in response to the severe shortages of swabs for testing in the south, he said.
The UN and its humanitarian partners are at the forefront supporting national authorities with its COVID-19 response, particularly in the provision of health supplies and personal protective equipment, the spokesman said.
More than 243,000 people have been reached by the UN and other organizations with humanitarian assistance since the beginning of the year across Libya, including 66,000 internally displaced people and 58,000 migrants and refugees, OCHA said.
In addition to hostilities and the pandemic, Libya also is faced with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers attempting to cross the Mediterranean from its shores, at great risk to their lives. This year, more than 6,700 migrants and refugees were intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, including women and children.
Fuel shortages and electricity cuts of more than 18 hours a day are exacerbating poor living conditions for many across the country, Haq said. Health facilities have also suffered from electricity cuts, forcing some to temporarily suspend operations.
Most of the western part of the country is controlled by the UN- and internationally-recognized government based in the traditional capital of Tripoli while much of the east falls under the banner of the self-styled Libyan National Army.