Six years of armed conflict and political instability have affected almost every part of Libya, claiming thousands of lives and leaving thousands more injured. Beyond the immediate casualties, the ongoing insecurity and violence has disrupted access to public utilities and services, with a dramatic impact on public health facilities.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2017 response plan for Libya, around 1.3 million people have limited access to health care services and resources. Forty-three out of 98 hospitals assessed by the WHO are either partially functional or not functional at all, due to an acute shortage of life-saving medicines, medical supplies and equipment, along with critical shortages of human resources.
These shortages are more pronounced at the primary care level, says the WHO: “As a consequence, referral and tertiary hospitals are overloaded with patients seeking help for common illnesses, and are unable to meet the demand.”
This is the challenge that the EU is trying to meet, supporting Libya in its efforts to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of health service delivery across the country, with a series of ongoing programmes worth almost €15 million.
These programmes were at the heart of discussions held in Tunis on 5-6 April, as officials from Libya and the EU met to discuss improvements in primary and maternal child health care, psychological support services and mental health, and non-communicable disease management.
Doctors, specialists and medical students were given the chance to provide their opinion and discuss their vision through presentations about the challenges and proposed solutions to improve health delivery in Libya.
Primary health care, maternity and neonatal health
Salem Shenisheh, one of the young participants at the meeting, is a doctor, a PhD student and one of the beneficiaries of the EU’s reform of the health sector, and in particular a four-year project to strengthen strategic planning, financing and management of health service delivery and human resources through targeted reforms.