Increased fighting in Libya since the start of the year had led to almost a doubling in the number of displaced people in the country to more than 434,000 from an estimated 230,000 last September, the UN refugee agency reported on Tuesday.
UNHCR said the numbers could in fact be higher because the agency has limited access in the country and is running its operation there by remote management.
"We rely heavily on local partners, who are themselves unable to reach all affected areas because of the volatile situation. This also reduces communication and monitoring and for these reasons their figures are an estimate," UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a press briefing in Geneva.
Current figures on internally displaced are made up of 83,697 families. These are calculated on the basis of countrywide data collected by UNHCR and its partners from local crisis committees, municipalities and non-government organizations (NGOs) directly involved in providing assistance to IDPs, including distribution of food and non-food aid.
With sporadic fighting in the south and a resumption of tribal tensions between the Tebu and Tuareg communities, the displacement situation threatens to become protracted with many IDPs unable to return or returning to unsustainable conditions such as in the border province of Awbari.
Access to southern Libya and delivery of relief items remains a challenge because of conflict and disrupted supply chains. "The situation of IDPs continues to be highly fluid in most areas, but particularly around Tripoli and Warshafana, where the destruction of homes prevents the return of IDPs and remains a critical concern," Fleming said.
About a quarter of the IDP population (105,000), the largest bloc, is located in the eastern city of Benghazi, where UNHCR has been working with the municipality as well as local and international NGOs to distribute items such as mattresses, blankets and kitchen sets to some 6,000 of the most vulnerable IDPs between March and June.