Dr Miriam A. Tresh

Department of Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

London School of Economics and Political Science

Abstract

Global data on the perceptions and psychological impact of the Covid-19 pandemic suggests the outbreak and restriction measures have had significant negative welfare effects. However, negative psychological symptoms do not emerge with the same intensity for all countries. In western Libya, citizens live under the dual threat of armed conflict and Covid -19. The situation merits investigation to understand citizens’ sensitivity to the pandemic under a pre-existing crisis. This research aims to extend current understanding by examining how coping strategies namely, perceived coping self-efficacy and perceived social support, moderate the effects of the two crises. Furthermore, it intends to explore the additive effect, if any, the outbreak has on the psychological impact of armed conflict. By so doing, it contributes to global data on beliefs, perceptions, and the psychological impact of the pandemic. An online survey in the region during the first surge in Covid-19 cases was completed by 717 respondents. Results show the negative psychological impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is not globally consistent. While citizens of western Libya share the normative belief that their government’s response to the outbreak is insufficient, their support for preventative measures diverges negatively from global trends. Moreover, citizens do not have adequate personal coping mechanisms to deal with the impact of armed conflict. These findings are discussed, and recommendations are put forward for action by the government and the international Covid-19 response in Libya. In conclusion, the ongoing civil war has compounded the already dire social and economic conditions, resulting in Covid-19 having little additive effect on citizens’ psychological wellbeing. Drawing on social capital, in the form of perceived social support, is thought to buffer the impact of conflict, though the socio-political and economic circumstances may limit this.