When the threat of the Coronavirus outbreak arose in Libya, authorities took a set of decisions to tackle it in all regions and cities of the country. They included disinfection campaigns of public spaces and allocation of isolation rooms for people affected.
Ghat, a municipality located in the southwestern part of the country, 1360 km from Tripoli, is particularly vulnerable. The city was heavily affected by floods during the summer of 2019. Flooding disrupted delivery of basic services to residents and created conditions for potential disease outbreaks.
Fear among Ghat residents
The municipality is bordered by Algeria and Niger and witnesses a high rate of travel movements and migration. This is an additional matter of concern for many residents as COVID-19 pandemic is spreading.
"When the threat of Coronavirus began in the country, people in Ghat were very afraid and confused because this is something new to them. They are aware that the city is very sensitive to COVID-19 as it connects to neighboring countries and has intense movements," said Mr. Bilal Al Turki, Head of Cleaning and Technical Services Unit at the General Company for Cleaning Services in Ghat.
"Residents of Ghat were in fear because they believed that the southern regions are marginalized, and the authorities do not have the capabilities to deal with such situations," declared Ms. Amal Al-Nani, Technical and Social Coordinator in Ghat and Chairperson of "I am a Libyan Woman and My Son is A Foreigner,” organization for civil and charitable work.
Local authorities calling for collective efforts
Despite lack of experience and necessary material resources, local authorities called upon all the spheres of the society to joint efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. They set up priorities consisting of disinfection campaigns in streets and public places and allocation of isolation rooms at the border entry points and in the city.
"Essen region is part of Ghat and is located 2 km from the Algerian border. For that reason, it is a sensitive region and requires special consideration," said Mr. Abu Khamis Musa, elder of Essen. "The General Company for Cleaning Services, and some local organizations in cooperation with the Water and Sewage Company, prepared the border crossing point and designated a place for quarantine. Although the work was carried out through our own efforts, it was quite good," he added.
As for the disinfection campaigns, the issue was more complicated because of the lack of needed equipment.
"At the beginning, we were frightened and had no idea about what to do," stated Abu Khamis.