Situation Report

Limited supplies affected COVID-19 response and disrupt child vaccinations

According to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), in October, a further 26,328 people tested positive for COVID-19 and 301 people have died. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Libya to 62,045 cases and 871 deaths. This is a 76 per cent increase in the number of cases since the previous month. The municipalities reporting the largest increases in confirmed cases in October included Tripoli, Misrata, Benghazi and Azzawya.

While capacity for testing has increased with 27 laboratories operating in the country, capacity remains largely concentrated in the country’s largest urban areas. Furthermore, the continued closure of primary health care facilities as a result of shortages of health care workers, power cuts and lack of personal protective equipment is affecting the capacity of the health system to combat the pandemic, while simultaneously providing essential health services. These includes reproductive health care, services for children under five years of age and treatment for patients with non-communicable diseases.

The south of the country has been particularly affected by power cuts and fuel shortages. All four designated isolation centres and laboratories undertaking testing in the region announced intermittent closures of testing facilities due to difficulties in maintaining operations amid blackouts and fuel shortages, but also because of a lack of testing and diagnostic supplies. As a result, for the beginning of October, municipalities in the south did not record any new cases for more than a week. While testing has recommenced, the number of tests being performed remains low. The four isolation centres remained closed, although a temporary facility has been opened in Sebha.

In addition to challenges responding to COVID-19, over the past seven months, unprecedented vaccine shortages in the country have disrupted children’s immunization schedules. The results of a recent assessment of vaccines in Libya showed that supplies of vaccines for common childhood diseases; TB, polio and measles, have run out, or will run out by the end of the year if no immediate measures are taken to procure and distribute additional supplies.

The COVID-19 pandemic preventative measures, which have included the closure of international borders and movement restrictions, has led to delays in procuring and distributing vaccines and many vaccination centres have been forced to close due to shortages of personal protective equipment for health workers. This puts more than 250,000 children in Libya at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases.