WHO, UNICEF warn vaccine shortages in Libya putting children's lives at risk
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The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have sounded the alarm over a decline in the number of children in Libya receiving life-saving vaccines, a situation they attribute to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the UN agencies, over the past seven months, unprecedented vaccine shortages have disrupted children's immunization schedules and put them at risk of disease and death.

"There has been an alarming decline in the number of children receiving life-saving vaccines globally. In Libya, this decline is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the closure of international borders, movement restrictions, and delays procuring and distributing vaccines," said a press release by UNICEF and WHO.

The two agencies added that many vaccination centers in the country have also been forced to shut down due to shortages of personal protective equipment for health workers.

An assessment conducted on 200 of Libya's 700 vaccine sites revealed that all 200 sites had stockouts of BCG vaccine and extremely limited quantities of hexavalent vaccine.

"The assessment also showed that polio and measles vaccines were expected to run out by the end of the year. Unless urgent measures are taken to replace these vaccines, the diseases they prevent are likely to spread quickly, with dire consequences," they said.

Health care services in Libya have been impeded by the conflict that has raged in the country since the 2011 ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, a situation made worse this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The country's tally of 65,440 COVID-19 infections is the sixth-highest recorded in Africa.

UNICEF Special Representative in Libya AbdulKadir Musse urged that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, crucial health care services like vaccination against life-threatening diseases should not be abandoned.

"Vaccines are crucial, and no child is safe until every child is safe," he said.