In April 2018, an outbreak of measles was reported in Libya. The outbreak first stemmed from the arrival of a migrant boy with his father from Niger to Al Gatroun in Libya, who spread the virus to his friends at school, most of the cases have been traced back to this one since then. The first outbreak in Al Gatroun, on April 12 2018, summed up to 9 lab confirmed measles cases. The second outbreak in Zliten, north west of Libya on 23 May 2018, reached 79 lab confirmed cases. Zliten outbreak continues & the area is the most affected, total of 453 cases so far (report of week 35). The third outbreak happened in Obari, in the southwest of Libya on 28 May 2018 with 3 lab confirmed & epidemiologically linked cases. The total number of confirmed measles cases is 453 & rubella 9. About 39 % of the measles confirmed cases reported were un-vaccinated children, a lack of protection which highlights the risk of further spread of the disease.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) & the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) requested UNICEF, WHO, IOM, UNHCR & other partners to support the outbreak response. Several meetings were held & led to the decision to conduct a nationwide measles, rubella & polio vaccination campaign with vitamin a supplementation. As the routine immunization services in Libya are delivered through a fixed strategy, the program is missing a significant proportion of migrants, IDPs & populations living in areas difficult to access. The current scenario of measles outbreak in which the profile of affected children shows a large proportion of un-vaccinated children provides additional evidence of the gaps in immunization services for these specific groups.
Although Libya has not reported any case of polio virus since 1991, the country is considered at risk of polio importation due to large pockets of un-immunized children, migrant populations that are hard to reach, in a context of conflict & overall insecurity. To ensure Libya stays free from polio, the campaign will be used as an opportunity to reach every child with oral polio vaccine & awareness creation on importance of vaccination in preventing diseases.