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Women and youth spearhead fight against COVID-19 in Libya

Like the rest of the world, the stilled town of Suluq in Eastern Libya has been grappling with the lethal threat of COVID-19 transmission and death. However, thanks to the relentless efforts of a youth-inspired team of volunteers, the town is emerging from the trauma of the pandemic.  

General health issues

“There is a large number of patients especially women with chronic health issues such as breast cancer and cervical cancer in the region. Given the inadequate health facilities and a general lack of awareness about COVID-19, their weakened immunity level could pose life-threatening situations for them, for their families, and for their communities. Taking all this into account, I determined something had to be done”, Dr Faiza Alfakhry", declares. She is a 35-year-old, youth leader, a resident of the town, and a professor in the University of Benghazi

Youth Against COVID Fund

COVID-19 has caused widespread concern in Libya, with authorities and communities alike struggling to address the pandemic and curtail its spread.  In April 2020, UNFPA established its Youth Against COVID-19 Fund, set up specifically to harness the energy, creativity and commitment of young people in a range of specifically focused outreach activities intended to help minimize and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Libya.

The Libyan Red Crescent (LRC), UN Women and UNESCO joined the initiative to strengthen and empower the vital role young people would play.  As a result, with the Fund’s support, various micro-ventures are combating the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing community awareness, promoting innovative prevention measures and supporting frontline health workers. The Fund has awarded micro-grants to 12 of the most promising and innovative ideas.

Awareness campaigns are multifaceted

Dr Faiza one of the micro-grant recipients, spells out how she and a team of volunteers and doctors have applied themselves in approaching the task. “I believe that young people have the strength and the potential to lead the change. I have been working as a volunteer with LRC myself since 2017. As a team of LRC volunteers and doctors, we planned and implemented week-long awareness-raising events on COVID-19 prevention measures and public health sessions related to women followed by a free medical examination to detect early symptoms of breast or cervical cancer”.

Success is sweet

More than 300 women attended the awareness sessions and came for early examination for detection of cancer.  Because of the project, a considerable number of cases were detected at an early stage and referred to more specialized services. At the same time, the community was sensitized about COVID-19.

Need to do more

“I am really thankful to UNFPA, the Libyan Red Crescent, UN WOMEN and UNESCO for establishing this Fund. I am hopeful that more funds will be available for youth- and women-led initiatives to bring a positive social change in Libya”, Dr Faiza says.