Stockouts of critical vaccines in Libya putting children at risk of preventable diseases
Libya's healthcare system has been slowly recovering in the aftermath of years of conflict and the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite being a resource-rich country, the country still faces many challenges when it comes to providing adequate healthcare for its people.
Libya continues to face repeated stockouts of critical routine immunization vaccines and essential medicines, as procurement orders are delayed due to lengthy governmental approval processes. With the current political challenges in Libya, the health care system is further strained due to a lack of cohesion between competing government structures, impacting the procurement and distribution of essential medicines and vaccines, as well as to implement effective public health initiatives.
According to UNICEF, vaccination centres across Libya are facing stockouts of most critical routine child immunization vaccines, including measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), as well as hepatitis B (HepB), rotavirus, and hexavalent and pentavalent vaccines, putting the lives and health of over a quarter of a million children under one year of age at risk from vaccine-preventable diseases.
UNICEF works closely with the Libyan health authorities to upgrade the country's cold chain system, ensuring that vaccines are stored properly at the correct temperature at vaccination centers. These upgrades also include the installation of power generators and training for over 4,000 health workers at vaccination centers. In addition, UNICEF donated 500,000 doses of polio vaccine to Libya to help address the stockout of this critical vaccine.
There are also chronic shortages of medicines, equipment and supplies, with public health facilities offering a standard package of essential health care services. The Health Sector estimates that 80 per cent of Primary Health Care (PHC) centres lack essential medicines. Medicines that are supplied through specialized centers, such as for the treatment of tuberculosis, renal, cancer, and HIV, as well as mental illness and family planning, are limited or not available at public health facilities.
The Health Sector is working together with national public health facilities in Libya to strengthen the healthcare system in improving procurement and supply chain management mechanisms. Additionally, continued investment in public health infrastructure and workforce is needed to ensure that essential health services can be delivered effectively.
In mid-April 2022, Libya’s COVID-19 community transmission (CT) classification was downgraded from CT3 to CT2 (moderate incidence) and by mid-May, the classification was further downgraded to CT1 (low incidence). May saw a marked decrease in the incidence of COVID-19 cases observed in Libya, while no deaths were reported. The overall number of new cases reported in May showed a 75 per cent decrease (87 cases) from April; however, by June, a minor increase in case incidence and a decline in the lab testing rate was noted.
As of 30 June, the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) reported that there are 502,189 cumulative COVID-19 cases, including 6,430 deaths, and 64 active cases. A total of 2.27 million people received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 1.2 million people received two doses and 139,514 people received a booster dose. In addition, the NCDC, in partnership with IOM, continued the vaccination campaign targeting migrants and refugees, including those in detention centres, with a total of 12,765 individuals having received at least one dose, and 3,292 received two doses, and 640 have received three doses by 25 June. On 18 May, WHO delivered COVID-19 genome sequencing reagent, primers and instruments to NCDC public health reference lab, which will further strengthen the country's capacity to detect new variants and track the spread of the virus and take appropriate measures to prevent its spread.
The NDCD also confirmed that Libya has no incidence of the Monkeypox virus.