WHO chief calls for urgent assistance in Lebanon

The head of the World Health Organization said Lebanon urgently needs assistance to help it cope with several crises.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke to reporters in Beirut on Friday after two days of meetings with Lebanese officials and medical workers. Ghebreyesus also visited a number of health care centers.

He said Lebanon needed emergency and development support to deal with serious economic and structural problems. One of the most immediate problems is the shortage of fuel and medicine.

Ghebreyesus expressed concern that conditions in Lebanon have caused many health workers to leave the country. This loss has left the country short of much needed human resources, he said.

Lebanon is a country of 6 million inhabitants, including more than a million Syrian refugees.

Earlier this month, Ghebreyesus spoke to reporters at a reconstructed WHO warehouse near the city’s port. The building it replaces was destroyed in a massive accidental explosion last year. The warehouse was used to store drugs and other medical supplies.

Ghebreyesus noted that the Lebanese people were already struggling with financial and political issues. The COVID crisis and the deadly explosion brought further disaster.

“It’s heavy. It’s very heavy,” said the head of the WHO. “I don’t know if there is a country in such a situation, which is really terrible. “

For months, pharmacies, stores that sell drugs, have run out of supplies. Widespread panic the purchase had emptied many drug stores. Many drug makers decided to keep their supplies, planning to sell the drug later at higher prices.

Lebanese hospitals are urgently looking for fuel to run the generators and run the life-saving machines. The economic crisis has pushed the government to struggle to import raw materials.

Ghebreyesus said drug shortages threaten tens of thousands of people in Lebanon, including cancer patients. Medical workers are forced to use alternative drugs for patients. Reports suggest that thousands of doctors and nurses have left the country in the past year to seek employment elsewhere.

“The nurses are leaving, the doctors are leaving,” Ghebreyesus said. “This is very serious. impact will last for many years to come.

WHO director for Lebanon Iman Shankiti said the UN agency has tried to help get drugs for cancer and critical patients. WHO has also helped provide fuel to several hospitals for the next few months until a more sustainable solution can be found.

“It’s only – as we call it – a Pad, to make sure the service keeps running, ”Shankiti said. “The UN again cannot replace the system itself.”

Lebanon has not had a fully functioning government for over a year. A new government has recently been appointed. The leaders promised to hold talks with the International Monetary Fund with the aim of negotiating aid from international donors.

Ghebreyesus said WHO will send a team of technical experts to help the Lebanese government find solutions and develop reform plans.

I am Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in this story

terrible – adj. very serious or bad

pharmacy nm a store that prepares and sells medicines

panic – not. a sudden strong feeling or worry of fear that makes people unable to think or behave calmly

alternative – not. one or more things available as another possibility

impact – not. the effect that a person, event or situation has on someone or something

Pad – not. a name for a small piece of cloth or plastic that sticks to your skin to cover and protect a small wound

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