Two kids who were rescued off the coast of Libya in August 2019 | Photo: ANSA/Stringer
Two kids who were rescued off the coast of Libya in August 2019 | Photo: ANSA/Stringer

UNICEF and WHO have warned that over 250,000 babies are at risk in Libya because there's not enough vaccines available. They are worried that this could lead to measles and polio outbreaks. Refugee, migrant and displaced children in particular lack access to vaccines.

The lives of over 250,000 children under the age of one are at risk because there's not enough vaccines available in Libya, a statement issued by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO) on May 18 warns.

According to the two organizations, the situation is made worse by the continued armed conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, disrupted health care services, regular power cuts, shortages of safe water supplies, and the closure of schools and child-friendly spaces.

Difficulty of accessing healthcare

For the past two months, access to routine immunization services for young children has been disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. This could potentially lead to a resurgence of measles and polio outbreaks.

There are acute shortages of...
  • the hexavalent vaccine, which protects against six diseases (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, Haemophilus influenzae type b and viral hepatitis B)
  • the oral polio vaccine, which is administered at birth and at nine months of age
Refugee and migrant children particularly affected

Children in hard-to-reach and conflict-affected areas are at particular risk because they may have already missed some vaccination doses, WHO and UNICEF said. The two organizations believe that many migrant, refugee or internally displaced children may not have received their basic vaccination doses.

"Immunization is one of the most effective public health interventions and when routine vaccinations are missed, there is a high chance of a resurgence of a measles outbreak, other preventable diseases, and fatalities among the children," said Abdel-Rahman Ghandour of UNICEF. "There is an urgent need to ensure an uninterrupted flow of funds for vaccine procurement to cater for the current shortfall."

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