WHO and Vatican Children's Hospital: long-distance formation for those in need
Emanuela Campanile & Linda Bordoni - Vatican City
"The project we are sharing with the World Health Organisation in Libya responds to one of the main objectives of our hospital, which is the sharing of knowledge achieved in the fields of clinical and research. The use of the Medtraining platform and distance learning technology helps us to pursue this goal more effectively and quickly". This statement by Mariella Enoc, President of the Vatican's Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, shines light on the significance of the initiative that was launched at the beginning of last year with the aim of promoting and supporting professional updating of health personnel in Libya, especially in the paediatric field.
Present for the public launch of the Medtraining project were Mariella Enoc, the WHO representative in Libya Elizabeth Hoff, Italy's vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Sereni, and one of the founders of the Bambino Gesù Hospital, Maria Grazia Salviati.
The Medtraining channel
Originally, the agreement called for doctors and nurses from two paediatric hospitals in Tripoli and Benghazi to come to the Bambino Gesù for a period of between three and six months. However, the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 made it impossible to start the project. That led to the idea of setting up a multilingual platform: the Medtraining distance medical education channel for developing countries, and then expanding it.
The first course involving 156 nurses from eight hospitals in the North African country started a few weeks ago. In addition to Tripoli Children's Hospital and Benghazi Children's Hospital, the Sabha Medical Center (the main hospital in the southern part of Libya), the hospitals of Sirte and Misurata in the Tripolitania region and the Cyrenaica hospital centres of Derna, Al Bayda and Tobrouk, all in the north of the country, are taking part in the "distance" learning.
Five languages for five specialisations
The Medtraining platform offers different training modalities and interfaces in five languages: Italian, English, Arabic, French and Spanish. The courses uploaded on the platform, once translated into the different languages, can be easily replicated and offered to countries with the same training needs.
Intensive care, neonatology, haematology, cardiology and cardiac surgery are the specialities first identified for further training. These are now joined by onco-haematology, palliative medicine and psychosocial support. As soon as the health situation allows, training will also be provided in the presence of some of the health workers involved in the project at the Bambino Gesù in Rome.
WHO honoured to partner the Vatican Hospital
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Elizabeth Hoff, said "it is a a great honour for the WHO to continue the partnerships established 5 years ago with the Vatican and the Bambino Gesù in Syria." She added that the project is now being extended to include Libya and is receiving an enthousiastic response from the nurses working in different Libyan hospitals.
"Already 130 have started and we are expecting many more to enroll," she said.
Hoff went on to reveal that currently discussions are ongoing to establish a partnership for treating children with cancer in Libya and that it will be funded by national and Italian oil companies. Here too, she said, "we would like to work very closely with the Vatican and the Bambino Gesù in building the capacity of the doctors and nurses who are going to treat the children and also establish the psychosocial support aspect linked to this project."
The partnership, she continued, includes a project for palliative care for children that is much needed in Libya: "the important issue here is really to make sure that we work in different aspects, and always with the same spirit of humanity."
Reaching those who are most vulnerable
Hoff noted that the Holy See and the UN have many values in common, including neutrality and impartiality "and making sure that we reached the most vulnerable." This, she said, "is what we are trying to do."
And amongst the most vulnerable are the many migrants and refugees currently hosted in Libya living in very difficult circumstances. "Pope Francis," Hoff said, "has given us all an example that we have to live up to, always bearing in mind the humanity and the love for our neighbour and those who need it the most. So this is what we are striving toward: to make sure that we really meet the needs of those who need it the most."
The WHO representative expressed her hope that soon it will be possible to "have the face-to-face discussions with Libyan doctors and nurses and to have the experts coming from here [the Vatican] to work hand-in-hand in a different way, like we did before," the pandemic. She is confident, she added, that the Libyans will take over when their capacity has been built.
Expanding the project
Currently, Hoff concluded, the partnership is working in Syria and Libya, but she said she has hopes it will one day be extended to Afghanistan and to Yemen, two countries in which the population is so vulnerable, and "we also bear in mind this wonderful visit of Pope Francis to Iraq to see what we can do for the groups there who are in need of support."