“I have seen it all with mixed feelings as with devastation, suffering and pain caused by the conflict in the most testing times of our history, I have witnessed audacity of our people to build back better and observed joy and hope that every newborn has brought to Libya and its future,” says Hakima, 57, a midwife in Tripoli’s University Hospital.
Libya has been grappling with a deficient health system delivery as one of the outcomes of a long-lasting instability and uncertainty exacerbated further by COVID-19. However, during the gravest of the challenges, Hakima’s story is a recognition of the invaluable services of many unsung heroes in midwives and nurses who came forward to provide essential reproductive health aid to Libyan people especially women, saving many precious lives.
Inadequate response to emerging needs
“Nursing and midwifery as a profession is a social challenge in Libya but with our relentless services and results coming thereof, the community’s views have changed over the years. However, after the war broke out, the greatest challenge was to find trained midwives and nurses as the expat workforce left the country leaving behind inadequate numbers and capacities to meet the emerging needs. The situation was dire and along with the spike in mortality rate, many surviving mothers and newborns faced lifelong health challenges,” Hakima recalled.
The health system in Libya suffers from severe shortages of health staff, supplies and equipment, compounded by years of under-investment and lack of maintenance. There was no comprehensive training programme for health staff especially nurses and midwives escalating the existing complexities manifolds.
UNFPA spearheads capacity building drive
Mr. Tahir Ghaznavi who is the Programme Specialist for Sexual and Reproductive Health for UNFPA Libya echoed Hakima’s words, “In last one-decade, Libyan health structure has faced immense shortage of resources to cope up the emerging needs for reproductive health. Considering this need and existing capacity issues, UNFPA with the support of the European Union launched a comprehensive capacity building programme for midwives and nurses in Libya. The programme is not only aimed at strengthening the existing institutional capacities but also to produce more midwives and skilled nurses with a focus on rational distribution of manpower across Libya so that the reproductive health needs could be fulfilled and sustained throughout the country for a long future ahead.”
Results are already showing
In 2021 only, UNFPA has improved the capacity and resilience of health systems by building the service provision capacity of 860 frontline health care providers including 732 females, mostly midwives and nurses.
UNFPA offered training on different modules including the provision of minimum initial services package (MISP) to sustain essential SRH services in crisis, mother, and child health (MCH), HIV/AIDS, district health Information system (DHIS2) and leadership capacity building of health authorities and workers.
“These trainings have helped us not only to learn best practices before, during and after the delivery but also to manage and programme our work streams in the most efficient and effective manner. With our improved capacities, we are not only busting myths, achieving better results but also training the younger generation of midwives and nurses coming into the profession,” Hakima says.
Establishing solid footings for sustainable solutions
Along with the capacity building of existing staff, UNFPA is striving to establish a strategic and academic basis for the midwifery profession in Libya. With the support of the European Union and in close coordination with the Libyan Ministry of Health, UNFPA has helped establishment of Policies, technical guidelines for midwifery, SRH, clinical management of rape and protocols on referral pathways.
Similarly, UNFPA, along with the Ministry of Health, developed the first ever Midwifery and Nursing Policy and costed strategic plan and institutional framework to bring improvements in the nursing and midwifery profession for enhancing the quality of maternal, newborn, and adolescent reproductive health services.
Furthermore, a National Policy and Strategic Action Plan 2022-2032 for standardizing Nursing and Midwifery Education in Libya has also been formulated. UNFPA is currently working with the Nursing and Midwifery Council to establish a regulatory framework and apply the revised standardized nursing and midwifery curriculum to education institutions in Libya.
The project is funded by the European Union.
Salman Khalid – Communications Analyst – UNFPA Libya