Benghazi remains a hub for Libya’s vulnerable communities since the conflict in 2014. With over 50,000 people already displaced, the city continues to welcome internally displaced persons (IDPs) from nearby cities and neighbourhoods affected by conflict. Despite the return of a number of families to their home regions, many have had to leave again due to landmines, lack of water and electricity and an overall unhygienic living situation. In addition, many who returned home in order to avoid paying high city rent have found their houses completely or partially destroyed. These families have thus fled to find safe shelter elsewhere.
To respond to the economic needs of IDPs in Benghazi, ACTED has implemented a multi-purpose cash assistance project in consortium with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). The project launched in 2017 with funding from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).
The objective of this cash assistance program is to provide an integrated response to the humanitarian crisis in Benghazi. Through this project, a total of 150 beneficiary households were provided with one instalment of cash transfers valued at 370 Libyan dinars (LYD) (approximately 230 euros) per household, under the Special Needs Fund cash-for-protection program.
ACTED’s cash and protection teams collaborated during this project to carefully select the most vulnerable among displaced, returnee and the host communities.
Approximately 35% of the Special Needs Fund beneficiaries were IDPs from Tawergha living in camps around the city, while the remaining beneficiaries are primarily Benghazi locals.
Aya is one of them. She lives in the Benghazi Sports Stadium camp for IDPs with her husband and four children. After the cash distribution, ACTED’s staff interviewed her to identify the impact of cash instalments on her family’s level of stability and security. Aya greeted ACTED’s staff with a bright smile.
The cash transfer was very helpful, especially as we have a lot of difficulties with housing and with our children’s health and education.
Aya has a permanent job as a cleaner in a public institute. However, due to the liquidity crisis and salaries being deposited with a month’s delay, she struggles to pay rent and to provide her family with basic medical supplies and food.
Since her husband is a non-Libyan, Aya’s children are treated as non-citizens. They are unable to access public assistance and services provided by local aid providers, despite the fact that they suffer from health problems. Pointing to her 10-year-old, she explained, “he has problems with his fingers and weak vision which slows him down in his studies.”
Most beneficiaries visited by ACTED staff discussed their struggle to secure daily meals. Female heads of households were especially overwhelmed due to their limited access to the job market. Some beneficiaries deal with additional difficulties resulting from personal disabilities. For instance, Nesreen, who is disabled, and her younger sister lost their home in downtown Benghazi. With no close relatives, they struggle to secure meals and pay for rent. Today, Nesreen’s sister works cleaning homes but only with clients she can trust for fear of personal safety.
After moving to cheaper rentals on the outskirts of the city, Nesreen says, “We can’t go out anywhere without a hired car — which is costly — especially at night, because the area is not very populated.”
Nesreen’s story illustrates the intersecting challenges—be they financial, gender-based or otherwise — faced by IDPs. According to a survey conducted by ACTED’s independent Appraisal, Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, households prefer unconditional cash assistance to other forms of aid. That is because unconditional cash assistance give beneficiaries the flexibility to respond to their unique situations in a way that makes sense for them.
I was very satisfied with the support, especially because the money was deposited in a bank account, which makes it safer and easier.