Today, 29 metric tonnes of health supplies arrived in Benghazi, Libya, from the WHO Global Logistics Hub in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. With enough supplies to reach almost 250,000 people with health aid, the shipment reflects an intensified emergency response to the unprecedented flooding in eastern Libya in the aftermath of Storm Daniel. The supplies include essential medicines, trauma and emergency surgery supplies, and medical equipment. There are also body bags for the safe and dignified movement and burial of the deceased.
Storm Daniel’s impact was compounded by the collapse of two dams that led to the deaths of thousands of people in Derna. More than 9000 people are still missing. WHO teams are working with the Libyan Ministry of Health to track the dead and missing. Thus far, the bodies of 3958 people have been recovered and identified, and death certificates have been issued. This number is projected to increase as more bodies are recovered by search and rescue teams.
“This is a disaster of epic proportions,” said Dr Ahmed Zouiten, WHO Representative in Libya. “We are saddened by the unspeakable loss of thousands of souls. Our thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones, as well as with all of the affected communities. We are committed to providing the necessary support to restore health services for the affected population in eastern Libya.”
Today’s shipment will help replenish supplies in more than half of the health facilities in the affected areas, most of which are not functioning due to shortages of medicines and medical equipment. The supplies will be given to hospitals and primary health care centres and will be crucial in restoring their functionality. The 29 metric tonnes (130 cubic metres) of supplies that arrived today are the second delivery made by WHO. A first delivery of 29 metric tonnes of urgent medical supplies came from WHO’s existing contingency stocks in Libya.
WHO is working closely with Libya’s Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control to identify and address the health needs of survivors and affected populations in temporary settlements and camps for displaced people. WHO teams are active on the ground as part of an assessment mission led by the Ministry of Health, as well participating in assessment missions being conducted by UN agencies. This ongoing health assessment covers the Al Bayda, Al Marj and Shahat districts and other affected areas.
While this assessment continues, the current priorities are to restore functionality in hospitals and health centres, and to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases. WHO will support the urgent delivery of health care through the provision of medical equipment, and essential medicines and supplies, including treatments for communicable and noncommunicable diseases, and surgical and anaesthesia supplies.
WHO’s response priorities over the coming weeks and months will include conducting in-depth health assessments, restoring the functionality of health facilities in affected areas, and establishing fixed and mobile health clinics as close as possible to affected populations. WHO will further bolster access to health care by deploying international emergency medical teams to provide health services in remote and hard-to-reach areas. Reinforcing disease surveillance and infectious disease control will be vital, especially for the estimated 35,000 who have been displaced by the crisis. WHO will also work with local health authorities to provide overall coordination of the emergency health response.