When the response to the Covid-19 pandemic became overwhelming to Al Kufra local authorities, doctors, and nurses, Première Urgence Internationale medical team rushed to the rescue. Al Kufra is a forsaken region in South-East Libya, isolated and marginalized. The area suffers from severe shortages of medical equipment and specialized staff. With the financial support of the European Union and The Swiss Confederation, Première Urgence Internationale (PUI), promoted the local community’s access to the Covid-19 vaccines through technical and logistical support.
Suhail Al’Aneizi – 35 years old – is a medical doctor who had just started working with PUI when the activities to promote the national vaccination campaign and safe access to Covid-19 vaccines were launched in Al Kufra district. Along with his colleagues, in July 2021, Suhail was deployed to Al Kufra, in deserted and hard-to-reach areas located 1150 km from Benghazi city. He joined PUI medical team to support the work of the Department of Health Services in the roll-out of the Covid-19 national immunization campaign notably across neglected and isolated areas of Al Tullab, Al Kufra Al Jadidah, Al Shura, Al Jawf, Al Hweiwiri, Rebyana, and Tazirbu.
He explains:” With the significant increase of serious covid-19 cases and the launching of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign, the health care units in Al Kufra having limited capacities were struggling with the roll-out of the campaign in the region.”
PUI medical team, adopted an inclusive approach, to reach all Libyan and non-Libyan communities. Through regular capacity building and on-site supervision, PUI medical team enhanced the technical capacities of more than 90 Covid-19 vaccination personnel, supporting the capacities of the Department of Health Services and National Centre for Diseases Control during their journey to the successful rollout of the Covid-19 national vaccination campaign. In addition to supporting the two main vaccination sites in Al Jawf, the main city of the district, PUI contributed to the operationalization of two additional sites in Rebyana and Tazirbu, located respectively 200 and 400 km far from Al Jawf.
Within the supported vaccination centers, PUI medical staff carried out pre-check medical consultations for Covid-19 vaccine seekers and constantly followed up on the medical staff’s vaccination process, contributing to raising awareness and providing information to the visitors of the centers.
On this matter, Fatima Werfali, 45 years old, PUI vaccination nurse recalls:” People to whom we provided medical assistance prior to getting the Covid-19 vaccine were encouraging their friends, neighbors, and families to visit PUI medical team in the vaccination center and this was reflected in the increasing number of vaccine seekers”
Indeed, the number of doses administrated significantly increased from less than 500 monthly doses to over 2000 doses prior to PUI intervention across Al Kufra region.
Additionally, Première Urgence Internationale in close coordination with the Department of Health Services and the National Centre for Diseases Control took a major part in the safe delivery and storage of the vaccine to Al Kufra district by donating cold chain equipment and organizing delivery operations within a matter of days following the request. Suhail adds:” The vaccines are available in the main vaccine storage center in Benghazi city. 1150 km is the distance separating Al Kufra from Benghazi city, 400 km of the road is unpaved sand desert, so the process involved some challenges, which were mainly related to transportation”
Fatima and Suhail explain that this intervention was a success and a personal accomplishment for both. They believe that with financial support from the European Union and The Swiss Confederation, the prompt medical response, technical assistance, and acquired knowledge could be expanded in other parts of the Libyan Southern East isolated area or in any future medical emergencies.
With the generous contribution of the European Union, Swiss Confederation, and Italian Cooperation, since 2019 Première Urgence Internationale has supported more than seven healthcare facilities across Al Kufra region and continues to provide support to the Department of Health Services in promoting equal access to quality healthcare services for Libyans, refugees, and migrants.