Tripoli, 17/December/2020 – A significant proportion of Libya’s population do not have access to good quality healthcare, most especially those who live in rural areas. In an attempt to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus authorities have been forced to impose strict movement restrictions on their constituents. This has prevented people from traveling to clinics, hospitals, and healthcare centers (mostly located in urban areas) in search of suitable healthcare facilities.
However, as part of a coordinated effort to facilitate improved access to healthcare for all people in Libya, and as a successful example of a private-public partnership, The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with support from the Government of Japan, has partnered with a private sector startup company (Speetar) and the Ministry of Health to develop the first Telemedicine initiative in Libya.
Telemedicine involves an innovative use of telecommunications technology in the provision of healthcare services to vulnerable populations, especially those who live in hard to reach areas that are far from the healthcare provider. The use of Telemedicine to “narrow the gap” and “extend the reach” has recently experienced a rapid growth in many parts of the world as healthcare providers and their patients consistently look for alternative solutions.
Today, in a ceremony organized by the UNDP, the Ministry of Health, and representatives from the private sector partner company (Speetar) launched the Telemedicine Initiative by conducting a live demonstration in Tripoli.
At the event, Dr. Khalifa ALBAKOUSH, Head of Scientific Consultancy Committee for COVID-19 from the Ministry of Health, stated: “During this time of the Pandemic, hospitals and clinics in Libya are afraid to deal with anyone with symptoms, this has created a challenge for people to have the needed medical care. With this initiative, the communication between the doctor and the patient can be done online. This will also help the MoH in data collection and analysis. Having an international partner such as UNDP Libya will not only support financially but also technically. We will use the expertise and knowledge they have. I thank UNDP again for not only this initiative, but also for the provision of COVID-19 testing kits and machines”.
On his part, Dr. Almehdi WERMADI, the Minister of Labour, stated: “We need digital technology, particularly in this time of Covid-19 pandemic. As working in the Labor sector, we need to build the capacity of medical and paramedical staff who are in the frontline of tackling Covid-19. This initiative really supports not only the patients but also young entrepreneurs. “
On her part, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Libya, Ms. Gozde AVCI-LEGRAND, declared: "Health is a basic human right. We strongly believe that the Telemedicine initiative has the potential to enhance the Ministry of Health’s capacity to extend its provision of e-health services to all the populations in Libya and provide much needed care to all including the most vulnerable populations."
UNDP Regional Director for Arab States, Ms. Sarah POOLE, participated in the launch. She said: "This new telemedicine service is an important step in the overall effort by the Government of Libya and partners to ensure more equitable access to health services across Libya, including in rural areas. UNDP is proud to support this initiative, and we thank the Government of Japan for their vital support as well."
Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Japan in Libya, Mr. Teruyasu SUMISE, said: “I am proud that the Japanese Government has reliably stepped up to support Libyan in need at such a timely, innovative manner. We are pleased to support the National Network project for Telemedicine to enhance the health system in Libya and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Operations Manager of Speetar, Mr. Ahmed ALFITOURI, stated: “Today we launch the Telemedicine Initiative in Libya, which provides the easiest way to access to health services in Libya, especially in conflict-affected areas and rural cities. In order to use technology huge funds are needed, but also huge technical support in the ground, and that is what UNDP has provided. The support we had accelerated the implementation of this project.”
UNDP expects that this Telemedicine Initiative will engage with around 6,000 patients, 1,000 specialists, and process 10,000 virtual consultations and E-prescriptions.