Many people across the world are rising to the challenges of working from home, but for those living in Libya, the daily trials of coronavirus lockdown range not from a lack of electricity to intermittent shelling due to the ongoing conflict in the embattled nation.
“I am working from home right now with [bombs] falling in the surrounding area,” said Moayed Zoghdani, who is an aid worker for an international agency.
“I am also suffering from internet interruptions which makes me unable to submit my work in time. And I started suffering from an upset stomach for the first time in my life. My spirit is very low.”
Zoghdani recently recorded a video from his apartment in which you can hear artillery shots right outside his window:
The conflict in Libya has been going on since 2011 and the capital, Tripoli, has been under siege for at least a year. Libya has yet to see a de-escalation in the fighting despite UN calls for a ceasefire.
The UN-recognised government based in the capital has imposed a lockdown in the controlled areas of the country since mid-April due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There is a curfew, which has been extended for another 10 days, from 6pm to 6am. People can go out shopping in the morning but shops close at noon. Non-essential stores are closed.
There have been 69 reported cases of coronavirus in Libya and at least three deaths.
Power and patience
We spoke with several humanitarian and development workers who agreed that working from home amid conflict and power cuts posed numerous challenges.
Fuel has become more expensive so the power generators can only be used when necessary for some workers, privileged to have an electricity and water generator at home.
Many workers spoke about the patience it takes to work from home in such circumstances.
Nurhan Sabkha, who also works in humanitarian cooperation, says that it can be “frustrating because I also have to look after my four-year-old daughter while working full-time.
“I am an internally displaced person, living near the war zone. The amount of patience, concentration and strength required of me during this time is unbearable most days”.
A colleague, Khadija Sadera, believes that working remotely “teaches you how to deal with the pressure and stress caused by the current situation, the blackouts and the weak Internet connection”.
Online learning undone by conflict
Elementary school teacher Hanan Rawag created a Facebook group to communicate with pupils and their families, but “it doesn’t work anymore” because the students are “stressed and distracted by conflict and power outages”.
One parent told Rawag that her child “can’t understand and needs the class interactions with the teacher.
“I am still doing my best and I made it a public [group] to benefit all, as [these students] are the future of Libya,” Rawag said.
Waad Treki, also a teacher, has to re-record classes because the videos are “ruined by thunders of shelling and artillery in the area.”
“Working from home made me realise that seeing my students everyday, interacting with colleagues, being exhausted and what I thought was a depressing routine were all anti-depressing,” Treki said.
“My work was a source of distraction that kept me from thinking of war and made me achieve and carry on.”