Lebanon crisis needs international assistance urgently: WHO chief

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Geneva [Switzerland], September 17 (ANI): Lebanon's enduring economic crisis risks reversing decades of gains in people's wellbeing, the head of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday.

Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) has done what it can to fill gaps in healthcare there for the last 15 years, the WHO Director-General said that the situation had become "very dire" and that international support was needed immediately.

"It's not just COVID, almost all services are being affected," he said. "We visited two hospitals today... they told us that you know, they had, patients, cancer patients or other patients, but a shortage of medicines and those who cannot afford not having access to, they can't have medicine, so meaning other services are being disrupted, and this is life, life, life and death."

Lebanon's unprecedented political and economic crisis has been made worse by the COVID pandemic and last August's port explosion.

Tedros said that when he went to meet top Government officials, a power cut interrupted their encounter.

Similar fuel shortages have left hospitals functioning at 50 per cent capacity, the WHO Director-General said, adding that he had agreed to send a team of health experts to Lebanon to offer technical support as soon as possible.

The UN health agency has also provided "Band-Aid" assistance to the country's medical sector, Tedros added.

This includes the purchase of essential medicines for 450,000 patients with acute and chronic conditions last year and this year.

But Dr Iman Shankiti, WHO Representative in Lebanon, told journalists that the caseload is now increasing and that demand is growing for medications to treat cancer, dialysis and emergency patients.

"At one point in time we were able to support 2,000 cancer paediatric cases and we were able to support 17,000 persons with catastrophic medications, but this is not enough," she said. "I cannot say that we have filled the gap, we have closed the shortage. The needs are huge....It needs a whole-of-Government approach (to solving the shortages)". (ANI)

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