By Sami Zaptia.
London, 5 September 2020:
With the exponential rise in Coronavirus cases raising alarms within Libya as well as with the World Health Organization and UNSMIL, Libya asked Libyan medical NGO Incision about its advocacy aims and indirect role in helping improve healthcare in Libya.
In her latest report on Libya to the UN Security Council on 2 September, UNSMIL Acting Head, Stephanie Williams, said ‘‘The immiseration of the Libyan people is further compounded by the debilitating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, which appears to be spiralling out of control. The number of confirmed cases has more than doubled in the last two weeks’’.
Today, the total cases stand at 17,094 cases, with 14,797 active cases, 2,025 recoveries and 272 recorded deaths as at 4 September.
Williams went on to say that the ‘‘Exponential increases are a worrying trend with community transmission now reported in some of Libya’s main cities, including Tripoli and Sebha. We are, however, looking at the problem through a keyhole, as persistent shortages in testing capabilities, adequate health care facilities and contact tracing mean that the true scale of the pandemic in Libya is likely to be much higher’’.
Tellingly, she added that ‘‘Handling of the pandemic is constrained by the fragmentation of health sector institutions, the extreme shortage of medical supplies and workers as well as a funding shortage. Nearing full collapse after more than nine years of conflict, the health care system is unable to respond to the additional weight placed by COVID-19 patients along with maintaining normal health services, including child immunization programmes.
It is essential that Libyan authorities cooperate transparently in our joint fight to control this terrible plague’’, she concluded.
With this sombre background, Libya Herald put a number of questions to Muaad Hussien, Libyan medical student at Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Head of Advocacy at Incision Libya.
Libya Herald: What is the idea and rationale behind Incision Libya?
Incision Libya: ‘‘The idea is to advocate for global surgery and research and education in global surgery. Global surgery is the idea based on the Lancets Commission for Global Surgery study of 2015, in which it was found that the world has to ramp up good quality surgery and anaesthesia. Otherwise, lack of surgery, lack of access to surgery and bad quality surgery and anaesthesia will increase rapidly as a major burden of disease’’.
‘‘Incision Global was founded by medical students from Belgium, Morocco and a few others to create a medical student organization to advocate and research on global surgery. Incision Libya is made up of Libyan medical students and young doctors, and Incision Libya is a branch of Incision Global’’
Libya Herald: Is membership of Incision Libya open to all Libyan medics, based locally and abroad?
Incision Libya: ‘‘Incision Libya is open to all Libyan medical students, doctors and specialists locally and abroad. We opened applications and closed it to register and organize with those that have applied. However, if any Libyan students/doctors are interested in joining, they can message Incision Libya (@InciSioNLibya)’’.
Libya Herald: What can Incision Libya contribute to the Libyan citizen?
Incision Libya: ‘‘Hopefully to increase medical research culture among students and doctors that will indirectly increase quality of care. In addition to posters related to surgery in Arabic to advocate surgical topics and other medical material in Arabic’’
Libya Herald: Will Incision Libya help contribute to the improvement of the Libyan healthcare system?
Incision Libya: ‘‘I believe that each medical student and doctor in Libya that gets the opportunity to ‘‘shine’’, that is work, to advocate, to educate and do research, will self-develop in her/his role as a doctor and become a better doctor. Better team playing and empathetic doctors create better culture and atmosphere in hospitals and qua;lity of care increases. It is, however, a slow process and difficult to measure’’.
Libya Herald: Since many Libyan students sent abroad on medical scholarships by the Libyan state do not return to work in Libya, do you honestly think it is still good ”value for money” for the Libyan state to send Libyan medical students on scholarships abroad?
Incision Libya: ‘‘This is not within our scope of work and is a separate discussion in itself. Doctors migrating from low/middle income countries to high income countries do so for a multitude of reasons. Studies have shown that less scholarships/opportunities wouldn’t decrease that migration. Often, those who go abroad still have tight contacts with their original country and support their relatives or former compatriots through different ways (opening clinics, working with research, working in hospitals for short periods etc). In addition, medical education around Libya is in near total halt. A 6-year degree takes 10 years to complete!’’