The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the vulnerability of refugees and migrants in Libya, as well as the necessity of investing in inclusive and accessible healthcare, collaboration and partnerships, economic and social support, preparedness and resilience measures, and enhancing the capacity of local NGOs to ensure a sustainable response. These insights can guide future efforts to ensure that refugees and migrants are better supported and protected during times of crisis
By Meftah Lahwel M.D.
Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic
Prioritizing the Health and Well-being of Refugees and Migrants in Libya
Covid-19 is no longer classified as a “global health emergency,” as we have all read in the news over the past few days. However, this does not imply that the risk has passed and requires to strengthen global governance in health emergencies as well as to promote investments in into holistic, publicly financed UHC systems in “peace” times based on the lessons learnt from the pandemic. The pandemic’s catastrophic impact was largely attributed to the presence of social and economic inequities, which exacerbated its effects. It was evident that inequality played a significant role in worsening the consequences of the COVID pandemic.
COVID has caused an unprecedented worldwide crisis, with millions of lives lost, public health systems in shock, and economic and social devastation disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable populations. Local, national, regional, and global capacities have been tested by the pandemic. COVID has a big and complicated influence. After emerging in 2019, COVID continues to spread over the world, overburdening public health and health care systems and resulting in several consequences, including long-term economic and societal effects. The pandemic of COVID is a timely reminder of the nature and consequences of International Public Health Emergencies.
Going back to the global situation prior to the COVID pandemic, COVID was not the first pandemic our world faced. Indeed, pandemics and epidemics have impacted our society ever since human settlements made the transmission of infectious diseases possible.
The International Health Regulations, despite being legally enforceable, were ineffective as preparation measures when COVID attacked the world. Scientists, public health officials, individuals, academic, private, and public institutions have warned of the potential threats posed by emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases with pandemic potential and urged investments in preparedness to respond effectively to this sort of emergencies. But many governments failed to recognize their strategic commitment to maintain a consistent and adequate level of preparedness, leaving the majority of these responsibilities to regional and other decentralized agencies that lacked the capacity to monitor compliance. In result, the world has underinvested significantly in pandemic preparedness. As a result, vulnerable populations such as migrants and refugees were impacted the most.
The already fragile health care system in Libya was severely impacted by the COVID pandemic. Due to the high rate of COVID-19 transmission among health workers and a paucity of PPE (personal protective equipment) and supplies, a large number of primary health care facilities were closed. The remaining functional medical facilities lacked all essential medications. The impact of the COVID pandemic was not limited to healthcare. It was expanded to include various socioeconomic aspects. Penury and economic deprivation make refugees and migrants prone to many morbidities like tuberculosis, scabies and malnutrition which healthcare by itself is not enough as solution.
For refugees and migrants in Libya, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a unique set of challenges. The pandemic has underlined the vulnerabilities of these already marginalised populations, and the lessons learned during this period can inform future efforts to better safeguard their health and well-being.
The significance of having access to accurate and timely information is one of the most important lessons acquired from COVID-19 in Libya. A significant quantity of misinformation and rumours have been disseminated due to the pandemic, causing refugees and migrants to experience confusion and fear. This has made it difficult for these populations to take adequate precautions to safeguard themselves from the virus. In order for refugees and migrants to comprehend the virus and the protective measures they can take, it is crucial that they have access to accurate and prompt information.
The need for inclusive and accessible healthcare is an additional lesson learned. The pandemic has illuminated the disparities that refugees and migrants encounter in accessing healthcare services, such as limited availability, language barriers, and stigma. Due to concerns of deportation or discrimination, many refugees and migrants have been reluctant to seek medical care. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that healthcare services are available and accessible to all individuals, regardless of their status or origin.
Moreover, the pandemic has highlighted the significance of collaboration and partnerships among humanitarian organisations, local authorities, and communities. This partnership has facilitated a coordinated response to the pandemic and ensured that the requirements of refugees and migrants are met. For example, local authorities have collaborated with humanitarian organisations to provide access to medical care, distribute hygiene packages, and distribute food aid.
The impact of economic and social factors on refugees and migrants has also been brought to light by the pandemic. As a result of the pandemic, a significant number of refugees and migrants have lost their means of subsistence and are now confronting heightened destitution and insecurity. Therefore, it is crucial to address the economic and social effects of the pandemic so that refugees and migrants have access to the resources they need to survive and flourish.
Lastly, the pandemic has demonstrated the significance of preparedness and resilience in responding to crises. Investing in measures of preparedness and resilience can help ensure that refugees and migrants are better equipped to withstand future crises. Investing in infrastructure and education, for instance, can help create resilience among refugees and migrants, allowing them to deal with future crises more effectively.
In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the vulnerability of refugees and migrants in Libya, as well as the necessity of investing in inclusive and accessible healthcare, collaboration and partnerships, economic and social support, preparedness and resilience measures, and enhancing the capacity of local NGOs to ensure a sustainable response. These insights can guide future efforts to ensure that refugees and migrants are better supported and protected during times of crisis. Protecting the health and well-being of refugees and migrants is crucial for constructing a more just and equitable society.
By the same author on PEAH
Refugees and Migrants Access to Healthcare in Libya: Challenges and the Way Forward