UN warns Libya vulnerable as country suffers first virus death

Fighters loyal to the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) open fire from their position in the Al-Sawani area south of the Libyan capital Tripoli during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar. (AFP/Mahmud Turkia)
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Updated 03 April 2020

UN warns Libya vulnerable as country suffers first virus death

  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned that the health system in Libya was already on the verge of collapse
  • Several hospitals near fighting zones south of the capital had been damaged or closed

TRIPOLI: The United Nations warned Friday that health services in conflict-plagued Libya were already fragile as the North African country recorded its first death from the novel coronavirus.
Health authorities said an 85-year-old woman was confirmed to have had COVID-19 on examination after her death, without giving further details.
The UN-recognized, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which controls the west of the country, has officially recorded 10 cases of the virus in Libya.
No cases have been declared in the south and east, which are largely under the control of a rival administration supported by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned Friday that the health system in Libya, the scene of a year of fighting for control of Tripoli, was already on the verge of collapse.
“The ongoing conflict has severely impacted the country’s health system and medical services, which have limited financial resources and face shortages of basic equipment and medicines,” UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said.
He told a press briefing in Geneva that several hospitals near fighting zones south of the capital had been damaged or closed.
Baloch called for the release of hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees held by Libyan authorities in detention centers.
They are “particularly vulnerable and exposed, given often poor sanitation facilities, limited health services and overcrowded conditions,” the UNHCR spokesman said.
Libya has been gripped by chaos since longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi was brought down and killed in a 2011 uprising backed by NATO.
Its rival administrations have launched preventive measures against COVID-19, including night-time curfews and the closure of restaurants, cafes and non-essential services.


250,000 pages of Palestinian history digitized and accessible for all

Updated 17 min 13 sec ago

250,000 pages of Palestinian history digitized and accessible for all

  • King Abdul Aziz Public Library is striving to preserve Arab and Islamic heritage

JEDDAH/RIYADH: The largest documented archive of Jerusalem’s history in the Arab Union Catalog is now available through the work led by the King Abdul Aziz Public Library (KAPL).

In cooperation with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), KAPL has helped to gather 820 records of the Jerusalem Shariah Court, each record containing between 150 to 500 pages, to form the database of the Palestinian libraries in the Arab Union Catalog.

The archive, which amounts to more than 250,000 pages in books, maps and manuscripts, covers Jerusalem’s history since 1528 and is available at the UNRWA Libraries Network.

KAPL, through the Arab Union Catalog, provided the technical capabilities to the information specialists of the education program, setting up the network to benefit libraries and Arab and Islamic culture.

Arab and Islamic heritage are the main pillars of KAPL’s work. On Palestine, the library has a large database of books, documents and maps. It has published a large illustrated volume entitled “Al-Aqsa,” which presents holy sites, heritage sites and the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosques. It also includes a large collection of rare documents and photographs.

Historical images of societies are part of their heritage and the global community. They tell of a people’s story and achievements, their suffering and loss, and serve as a vital element of communal identity.

Speaking about the importance of heritage conservation, Majed Al-Ahdal, an avid supporter of documenting antiquities, told Arab News that “documentation, in principle, is a manifestation of humanity and civilization; it’s a human condition that expresses the life of the individual and his or her deep desire for immortality.”

Today, few would disagree with the importance of documentation as a means of preserving the physical and intangible heritage. Through its various cultural projects, KAPL has documented Arab intellectual creativity, amassing a collection of more than 3 million books, journals, documents, manuscripts and rare photographs.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Through its various projects, KAPL has documented Arab intellectual creativity, amassing a collection of more than 3 million books, journals, documents, manuscripts and rare photographs.

• On Palestine, the library has a large database of books, documents and maps.

The digitizing of the archives will preserve and enrich Arab and Islamic culture and its sources.

“Documentation today is a means of surviving the historical and identity erosion of any one human being,” said Al-Ahdal.

Hundreds of photographs have been found of the old city of Jerusalem, which are an important form of documentation and can play a role in conservation efforts.

“It is a powerful tool on which many engineering and artistic applications can be built. It is one of the most important ways in which physical heritage can be remodeled in the event of damage or destruction caused by natural disasters or the devastation caused by human conflict, with the assistance of 3D modeling software and other engineering applications.”

He said that photography can offer a reliable record of buildings, decorations, people’s costumes, society’s customs, and colors that can be difficult to describe and document in other ways.

“Promoting historical written and oral blogs with visual documents helps to get more precise view of our Arab and Islamic history.”

In 2009, the UNRWA archive was inscribed by UNESCO in the Memory of the World Register for collecting a rich audiovisual archive of film and photography that contains more than 10,000 prints, 85,000 slides and more than 70 films on the life and history of the Palestinian people.