Lebanon’s health sector in “dire situation” needs urgent international help, says WHO chief

The lingering economic crisis in Lebanon threatens to undo decades of progress in the well-being of the population, the WHO chief said on Friday, adding that international aid was urgently needed to deal with the ” dire situation ”. Speaking during his visit to the Middle Eastern country, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus highlighted the crisis in the health sector in Lebanon and said there was a shortage of “basic and essential medicines”. Although the WHO has been helping for 15 years, the senior official called for “immediate international support”.

“It’s not just COVID, almost all services are affected,” he said. “We visited two hospitals today… they told us you know they had patients, cancer patients or other patients but a shortage of drugs and those who can’t afford not to to have access to it, they cannot have medicines, which means that other services are disrupted, and it is life, life, life and death, ”added the head of health.

Lebanon, right now, is grappling with multiple crises – a constant war with Israel, new variants of the coronavirus, political instability and a debt crisis – while trying to recover from the horrific explosion that rocked Beirut in August of last year. The current economic crisis in the country has pushed more people into poverty, with tens of thousands of people losing their jobs since the anti-government protests began in late 2019. According to the World Bank, the country’s economy has contracted by 19% in 2020 and is expected to shrink further this year.

On Friday, Ghebreyesus claimed that fuel shortages have put the healthcare sector at risk and left hospitals operating at 50 percent of capacity. Notably, on the same day, the Lebanese administration increased fuel prices by nearly 38% to tackle gasoline shortages. Meanwhile, the WHO chief backed up his point by visiting the central medicine warehouse that was destroyed in the port explosion last year.

$ 4 million in aid

Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths announced an allocation of US $ 4 million from the Central Emergency Response Plan (CERP) to help the country cope to the worsening fuel crisis and support the continuity of essential services. “Lebanon faces deep uncertainty. The humanitarian community, however, is determined to help all vulnerable populations, be they Lebanese, refugees or migrants, ”he said.

Image: AP

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