Ambassador Norland participated in a virtual briefing on March 24 led by the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) for Libya, Elizabeth Hoff, who provided U.S. government implementing partners an overview of international efforts to assist Libyan health authorities and local leaders in addressing ongoing public health challenges as well as preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO is working closely with the Libyan National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and other partners across the country to strengthen and expand national disease surveillance and detection efforts, equip isolation wards and most importantly increase public awareness of preventative measures, including frequent hand washing and social distancing. Participants in the briefing acknowledged the special role played by courageous health workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 threat, and expressed interest in progress being made toward payment of salaries to those workers.
The U.S. government provides support to WHO through USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) focusing on disease surveillance efforts and providing immediate life-saving health services in Benghazi, Ejdabia, and Tarhouna. With support from the U.S. government through OFDA as well as other donor funds, WHO has been able to procure essential medicine and trauma kits, which can serve to treat 11,300 patients in hospitals and clinics in conflict-affected areas. WHO is working to pre-position supplies needed to help respond to any escalation in violence and health threat. Other OFDA-funded health programs, implemented by international non-governmental organizations, are in Misrata, Sabha, Alshati, Elmargeb, Aljfara and Tripoli.
The U.S. Embassy is identifying opportunities to augment WHO’s efforts and to expand the communications and outreach capacity of Libyan authorities – such as the NCDC – across all of Libya to inform its citizens about the pandemic and ways to manage the risk of an outbreak.
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