Aisha is in her forties, and originally from Sudan. She lives with her five children in the Al Ajhar village in Al Kufra Region. Her house was constructed by her son on a small piece of land donated by one of their neighbors for a temporary period. She has neither a bathroom nor a kitchen in her modest house, and the roof is made of corrugated steel panels.
Aisha’s living conditions were further worsened when her house caught fire, while her son was trying to connect the electricity to the house. “I lost all my documents in that fire. Now, I am unable to provide the basic needs for my family. My children cannot go to school because we do not have the required legal documents. This is why I am undertaking their education by myself at home. I do not want them to be illiterate! I want them to be able to read and write some basic sentences, at least!” says Aisha. She is also the main breadwinner for her family; selling home-made food in order to gain a living.
Aisha struggles with many health conditions and difficulties in her daily life. She suffers from hyperthyroidism, hypertension, and cardiac arrhythmia. Additionally, she has a general anxiety disorder that has affected all aspects of her life. When she heard about Première Urgence Internationale’s (PUI) Mobile Health Team providing medical services in the Al Ajhar healthcare center, she visited PUI’s doctor seeking medical assistance. Thanks to a PUI’s project financially supported by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and the Swiss Confederation, primary healthcare services were provided for Aisha on a regular basis. Medical consultations, advice and medications for her chronic diseases along with psychosocial support were provided to her. To her credit, Aisha’s overall condition has improved: her thyroid function has normalized, her hypertension is now under control and her anxiety has reduced. On the other hand, she is still in need of further imagining and cardiac care for her heart condition which are only available in Benghazi at about 1,000 km away.
Aisha struggles to fulfill her basic needs, to access comprehensive healthcare, and to ensure the education for her children. She dreams of a decent life. However, despite all these conditions, she still prefers to live in Al Kufra. She says that: “Everyone has abandoned me and let me down. Despite all of this, I still prefer to live here in Al Kufra, because life in Sudan is much more difficult for me”.
Première Urgence Internationale’s mandate is to reach the needs of the most vulnerable populations and to help them regain independence and dignity regardless of their nationality, ethnic origin, race, gender or any other affiliations. This is why, the organization is committed to provide basic needs to people like Aisha, alleviate their sufferings, and make their voices heard!
“If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.”
Najwa is a young lady from Al Kufra Region who has been volunteering with the Libyan Red Crescent (LRC) for nearly twenty years. Her passion about community work stems from her deep belief that every person can make a difference by serving society even through small actions. Recalling her memories, she said: “I started volunteering at a very young age when I was a little kid at primary school. I strongly believe that small actions can make a difference and I find true happiness in helping others and making them happy”.
On the general conditions in Al Kufra Region, she affirmed that: “The Al Kufra Region has its own peculiarity. It is about 600 km far from the nearest city and more than 1,000 km from the main coastal cities, which makes the living conditions difficult”. She is concerned because the region suffers from a shortage of basic materials, dilapidated infrastructure, a shortage of fuel, high prices of basic items, and a lack of medical services including specialized ones, due to the lack of available health workforce. Amid these circumstances, she decided to take action in order to contribute to alleviating the impact of these conditions especially with the growing needs in her region.
Currently, Najwa is a volunteer from the Libyan Red Crescent and one of the 11 community health workers who are collaborating with Première Urgence Internationale (PUI) on community health activities in Al Kufra as part of a project implemented by the organization and financially supported by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and the Swiss Confederation. The project aims to strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable populations and to contribute to improving their access to essential services. With her fellow colleagues, Najwa conducts awareness raising activities in her community, as well as regular screening whether for malnutrition in children under the age of 5, or for pregnant and lactating women. These women are also asked whether they have received appropriate preventive care and people with chronic diseases benefit from home follow-up visits. In case of need of a medical consultation, patients are referred onwards to the Première Urgence Internationale’s Mobile Health Team. Additionally, during the COVID-19 crisis, Najwa contributed to the organization’s efforts to sensitize communities about the risks of the disease and impact on the health system, its symptoms, and preventive measures to reduce transmission, as well as the stigma around being sick. Being passionate and enthusiastic about her work, she proudly affirmed: “One of the most important reasons that motivate me to continue this work is to see the remarkable change in the habits and behaviors of people in my community. They are now more aware about some health topics especially with the spread of COVID-19 in the region”. In a remote context, deprived of different services, community activities are the first layer to be strengthened in order to ensure early care and combine the necessary awareness raising with all health programs.
Première Urgence Internationale’s mandate is to support populations affected by crises by providing them with the skills to take their future back into their own hands. This is why the organization relies on the contribution of Najwa and other community health workers to create change. Première Urgence Internationale believes that change should come from within a community in order to ensure the sustainability and the impact of its activities. The organization, therefore, seeks to enhance the skills and capacities of the Community Health Workers, in order to reduce the barriers to access to basic services and improve the quality of health care, in Al Kufra, at community level.
Haleema ’s hikaya , a 60-year-old lady who faced barriers accessing health care in Al Kufra Al Jadida
Haleema, is 60 –years old and lives in Al Kufra Al Jadida; a remote village located in the Al Kufra Region. She has chronic diseases that affect her daily life and have made her unable to carry out her daily activities normally.
Haleema suffers from hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and osteoarthritis. She has faced many challenges to access regularly to quality health care, as there is only one health care facility in her village lacking qualified medical staff such as a medical doctor. The necessary medicines for the control of her chronic diseases are also missing or inconsistently present. Additionally, her village is far from Al Jawf, the main city in the region where fairly better health services are available. There are no public transportation services available in the area to get there. Haleema relies on her relatives to overcome these challenges; “When I urgently need to see a doctor, I rely on my nephew Mohamed, may God bless him, to drive me to Al Kufra center. Mohamed spares no effort to offer me help, but I don’t want to bother him all the time. I’m keeping him only for hard times”, says Haleema. Besides to the lack of medications that she continuously needs to control her blood sugar and blood pressure levels, the lack of financial resources and her modest income from home bread baking further hinder Haleema from getting the medicines she needs when they are not available for free at the public health facility‘s pharmacy.
When she heard about Première Urgence Internationale’s (PUI) Mobile Health Team providing comprehensive medical services, on a weekly basis, in the Al Kufra Al Jadida Health Center, Haleema sought care. During her visit to the doctor, she explained her situation, and the doctor provided a complete consultation: patient’s interrogation, medical examination, related medical counselling and prescriptions of drugs and blood test, which she could have filled by the onsite pharmacy. Currently, Haleema regularly sees the Première Urgence Internationale’s Mobile Health Team to monitor her chronic diseases and receive full treatment. A significant improvement in her health has been recorded. This was reflected in both her blood pressure and glycemia, as well as the relief of most of the pain associated with osteoarthritis. When she was asked about how she feels now, Haleema replied: “Today, I am able to cope with and control my chronic diseases. I’m following the advice of Première Urgence Internationale’s doctor’s, and I am no longer facing any issues to get my medications and the necessary health care. This helped me regain my activity and lead my life in a healthy way with no sufferings”.
Haleema is not the only person in Al Kufra Al Jadida who is in a dire need for proper health care services. There are many “hikayat” in the village like Haleema’s “hikaya”! This is why Première Urgence Internationale is committed to provide medical services for people in the most remote areas of Al Kufra, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, which added further burdens on an already challenged healthcare system. Thanks to its project funded by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and the Swiss Confederation, Première Urgence Internationale was able to alleviate the sufferings of many people like Haleema. Première Urgence Internationale’s continued efforts aim to provide support to populations affected by humanitarian crises and to be ready to help whenever and wherever needed.
Al Kufra is a district of the south-east of Libya with three municipalities including Al Jawf, Tazerbou and Rebyana gathering around 70,000 inhabitants. The population of Al Kufra has limited access to services, particularly health care, due to the remote geographic location of the region, the lack of skilled health personnel as well as the limited medical supplies and equipment even in main cities.
Khalil is a seven-month-old baby who was born in the Al Kufra Al Jadida area to a modest family with scarce financial resources. Since his birth, Khalil has been suffering from several health problems including malnutrition, respiratory problems and frequent urinary tract infections. This has added a heavy burden on his mother Ahlam who works hard to fulfill the daily needs of her children. The difficulties that she faces to access proper healthcare for her child were further deepened with the remoteness of the Al Kufra Al Jadida area that is located far from the main city of the Al Kufra region and the lack of transportation services.
During one of their field visits to the Alkufra Aljadida neighborhood, the Première Urgence Internationale’s (PUI) community health workers visited Ahlam and her child at their home where they noticed Khalil’s low body weight and stunting. He weighed only 5 kilograms at the age of seven months which is below the lower thresholds of growth curves. Thus, Khalil was referred by the community health workers to Première Urgence Internationale’s (PUI) Mobile Health Team for a medical consultation. After the medical investigations, it was revealed that the baby was suffering from severe acute malnutrition with complications requiring specialized healthcare and admission to the hospital. The Première Urgence Internationale Mobile Health Team made all the necessary preparations and transported Khalil to the main hospital of the city in order to help him receive the necessary renutrition to correct organ failure and resume growth. Meanwhile, the community health workers conducted awareness sessions on infant and young child feeding for Ahlam in order to provide her with additional knowledge to empower her to best care for her son’s nutritional needs.
The baby’s situation has now improved and Ahlam has updated that “Khalil is now in good health and his life was saved! This made a huge difference in my life”. Indeed, every person should have proper access to quality healthcare. This is why, with support of the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and the Swiss Development and Cooperation Confederation, Première Urgence Internationale continues to strive to provide quality healthcare for people in need, especially in remote areas of Libya where the healthcare services are limited.
Al-Tullab is a small remote village located southwest of Al Kufra city. The village inhabitants are living in challenging conditions due to their isolation from the rest of the city and the difficulty of moving on a sandy, unpaved road and poor infrastructure. In addition, the village lacks basic infrastructures such as a pharmacy and a gas station.
Mr. Boushnaf added that Première Urgence Internationale (PUI) medical team has been conducting weekly medical visits for more than year to respond to the most urgent health needs of the Al Tullab inhabitants. Indeed, Première Urgence Internationale’s medical team is composed of highly qualified professionals including a general practitioner, an obstetrician-gynecologist, a nurse and a psychosocial support worker. The team members work together to ensure a holistic and multi-disciplinary health approach in order to address the needs of the patients and their families. In the area, PUI has also established a partnership with the Libyan Red Crescent and its network of community health workers who refer patients whose health condition requires it. This contributes to alleviating the sufferings of the Al Tullab inhabitants.
Première Urgence Internationale’s priority is to provide a high-quality medical assistance to people in need and to improve their access to essential services. This current project of Première Urgence Internationale is financially supported by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and the Swiss Confederation. It aims to contribute to alleviating the suffering of conflict-affected populations in Al Kufra region via the provision of essential health integrated services.