Libya's political instability, violence, and economic difficulties have made it a challenging location for migrants and refugees to reside. Consequently, their health has been severely compromised, and they confront a variety of health challenges closely connected with social exclusion and discrimination
By Meftah Lahwel M.D.
Refugees and Migrants Access to Healthcare in Libya
Challenges and the Way Forward
In recent years, the world’s total number of forced displacements has reached an all-time high as a result of the wars, violence, instability, and natural disasters that are presently impacting many regions around the world. For years, Libya has been a hub for migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe, with many putting their lives at risk to cross the Mediterranean Sea in pursuit of a better life. The country’s political instability, violence, and economic difficulties have made it a challenging location for migrants and refugees to reside. Consequently, their health has been severely compromised, and they confront a variety of health challenges.
Access to healthcare services is one of the most significant health challenges migrants and refugees in Libya encounter. Many refugees and migrants in Libya are undocumented or lack the appropriate documentation, limiting their access to healthcare. Even if they have access to healthcare, the quality of care is frequently inadequate, and healthcare facilities are frequently overcrowded and insufficient. This dearth of access to healthcare services has resulted in an overall decline in health.
Due to security threats and a lack of financing, more than half of the health facilities that were operational in Libya in 2019 had to close in 2020. The closures in rural areas have been the most severe as a result of security threats and an absence of state and health sector funding. Those who remained open endured frequent power outages, which were exacerbated by a dearth of fuel for standby generators. Children were exposed to life-threatening diseases such as measles and polio due to the repeated shortage of essential vaccines, which disrupted immunisation schedules and placed children at risk of contracting such diseases. Similarly, over two-thirds of primary healthcare facilities lack antibiotics, analgesics, insulin, and antihypertensive medications.
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 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.
In Libya, migrants and refugees are also susceptible to physical and mental maltreatment, which can have long-lasting health effects. Many migrants and refugees are victims of physical and sexual violence. This can result in both physical and mental injuries, including anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In addition to these obstacles, migrants and refugees in Libya are also subject to discrimination and social exclusion, which can exacerbate their health issues. They are frequently marginalised and excluded from conventional society, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.
In order to resolve these health issues, the Libyan government and international organisations must prioritise the health requirements of migrants and refugees. This includes providing adequate food and water and addressing issues of violence and abuse. These efforts can be supported by international organisations providing humanitarian aid and assistance, as well as advocacy and technical support.
Improving access to healthcare services is essential to addressing the health issues migrants and refugees in Libya face. This involves ensuring that healthcare services are accessible and affordable, as well as expanding the capacity of healthcare facilities to satisfy the needs of migrants and refugees. International organisations can also support the training of healthcare professionals to provide migrants and refugees with culturally sensitive and appropriate care.
Improving the health of migrants and refugees in Libya is also contingent on addressing the problem of violence and abuse. This includes protecting migrants and refugees from physical and sexual violence. These efforts can be supported by international organisations through the provision of legal and advocacy assistance, as well as the establishment of secure spaces for migrants and refugees.
In order to improve the health of migrants and refugees in Libya, it is essential to resolve social exclusion and discrimination. This includes addressing discrimination against migrants and refugees as well as improving social integration and inclusion. These efforts can be supported by international organisations collaboration with local NGOs and host communities through advocacy and awareness-raising campaigns, as well as the establishment of community-based organisations that promote tolerance and social inclusion.